THE ZIKA VIRUS: A PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY
(House of Representatives - September 08, 2016)

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[Pages H5203-H5204]
From the Congressional Record Online through the Government Publishing Office [www.gpo.gov]




               THE ZIKA VIRUS: A PUBLIC HEALTH EMERGENCY

  (Ms. JACKSON LEE asked and was given permission to address the House 
for 1 minute.)
  Ms. JACKSON LEE. Mr. Speaker, you have heard the cries of our 
colleagues. You have heard the cries of the American people. Redundancy 
is not a question here. It is telling the truth. In fact, our health 
professionals have indicated that the Zika virus presents an 
unprecedented threat to the people of our Nation, especially to 
pregnant women. We cannot hear this often enough, and although busy 
with the beginning of the school year and with going back to work, it 
is important to warn the American people of this impending and ongoing 
threat.
  While we are fiddling and doing things that have no impact on 
providing a portion of the $1.9 billion that is needed by the American 
people, we have 1,600 cases of Zika virus in the United States--200 
plus women who are pregnant and 35 known transmitted diseases here in 
the United States of the Zika virus. We also now know, through health 
professionals, that it is sexually transmitted. We know that the entire 
United States is vulnerable, but most of the vulnerable States are in 
the Gulf region.
  It is time now to address the question of funding without riders, 
like preventing Planned Parenthood from getting funding, and without 
riders for allowing the Confederate flag to be in a veterans' cemetery.
  Where is our concern about the American people--for the people in 
Louisiana with a lot of water? for the people in Texas with a lot of 
water? in Florida? in Puerto Rico?
  It is important that this funding comes now to rapidly expand 
mosquito control programs and to accelerate a vaccine. That is really 
important--to be able to provide the American people with a vaccine. 
They are in the midst of the research. They need the funding. The CDC 
and the NIH have reprogrammed more money than they have to try to help 
those who are desperate.
  I make the argument that it is time now for us to do the job. The 
other body needs to engage in providing a bill, and this body, this 
House, needs to stop playing those kinds of politics and provide the 
funding--the funding that does not take from Ebola but the funding that 
the American people need to be safe.
  Mr. Speaker, we are currently in a state of a public health crisis as 
a result of the growing rate of Zika infections across the country.
  Sadly, we are failing as our nation's leaders in our ability to 
respond to this crisis.
  As days and month go by it is alarming and the level of action and 
inaction my colleagues are taking to hamper the ability of our federal 
government to respond to this rapidly growing public threat.
  In particular, I am concerned that we--as a body of Congress--have 
not taken the critical steps to move forward and appropriate necessary 
funding that will help screen, treat, vaccinate and test deadly cases 
of Zika infections.
  According to the Coalition for Sensible Safeguards, Congress should 
be looking for ways to strengthen our nation's regulatory system by 
identifying gaps and instituting new science-based safeguards for the 
public.
  I cannot agree more--as we are now in perilous times where the Zika 
virus presents unprecedented threats to the people of our nation.
  As cited by Tom Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control 
and Prevention and Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of 
Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health in 
an op-ed, dated August 21, 2016:
  There have been more than 16,800 cases of Zika infection reported to 
the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. and its 
territories, including more than 2,700 on the mainland.
  Laboratory tests have confirmed that 1,595 pregnant women have been 
infected with the virus, and tragically, 17 babies have been born with 
birth defects related to Zika.
  As highlighted by Frieden and Fauci--``We have an obligation to meet 
the Zika threat and protect this country''--as ``the potential cost of 
a funding shortfall will be measured in human misery and even death.''
  Now is not the time to pass measures or engage in futile debates that 
will undermine or slow the ability of our federal and local governments 
to address and respond to this growing threat and active cases of Zika 
infections.
  Rather, we need to invest in stopping this deadly, but preventable 
virus, before it is too late.
  We cannot afford to stand by with our hands tied any longer.
  Our limited time as the days in September wain down cannot be wasted.
  We should be focused on the crucial mission of protecting our 
nation's people.
  That is why, in these critical times of need, I am calling upon my 
colleagues to place the growing epidemic of the Zika virus at the top 
of our priorities and demand no less than fully financed measures to 
timely and adequately respond to this devastating and deadly public 
health emergency.

                       [From Time, Sept. 7, 2016]

How To Fight Zika and Cure Nation's Ailing Public Health System--Enact 
                  a Law to Respond Quickly to Threats

                        (By Sheila Jackson Lee)

       There is an excellent model that demonstrates how the U.S. 
     should reform the current reactive model of public health 
     emergency management--it is the solution found to address 
     disasters established by the Stafford Disaster Relief and 
     Emergency Assistance Act. Under the Stafford Act, enacted in 
     1974 and later updated in 1988, authorizes the President of 
     the United States, when disaster strikes, to deploy the 
     coordinated efforts and resources of the federal government 
     to save lives and property, and restore communities hit hard 
     by a calamity. The federal government provides warnings of 
     hurricanes and floods, and in cases of wildfires dispatches 
     resources to extinguish flames before they threaten people 
     and property.
       The knowledge of public health experts, the Centers for 
     Disease Control and Prevention, policy makers, health-care 
     professionals and patient advocacy organizations should be 
     brought together with the relevant committees in the House 
     and Senate to develop measurable criteria to create baselines 
     for defining, responding and mitigating public health threats 
     to effectively and immediately without the delay engendered 
     by the need for Congress to pass an emergency supplemental 
     appropriations.
       The U.S. must be capable of responding quickly to emerging 
     threats that are identified anywhere in the world. The Ebola 
     and Zika viruses for examples existed in other

[[Page H5204]]

     nations for many years before they became a clear and present 
     threat to public health in the Western Hemisphere and the 
     U.S. The cost of waiting until a public health threat is 
     present in the U.S. increases the threat to our nation's 
     public health systems; it reduces the likelihood of success 
     in winning the battle against a pathogen and it risks a new 
     contagious disease becoming endemic--akin to the common cold. 
     In addition, the cost of putting down a public health threat 
     increases as time passes.
       There is a long history of threats to public health posed 
     by pathogens. In March 1918, in Kansas, the U.S. had its 
     first case of the Spanish Flu, which is recorded as the first 
     H1N1 flu epidemic. This pandemic killed 50 million persons 
     worldwide it ended abruptly in 1919. The mortality rate of 
     the Spanish Flu was as high as 1 death for every 5 infections 
     and 50% of the deaths, or about 25 million, occurred in the 
     first 25 weeks of the outbreak. We are now in the 31st week 
     of the Zika Virus global health emergency, which was declared 
     by the World Health Organization on Feb. 1, 2016.
       The world is still battling the HIV/AID global pandemic, 
     which became known to public health experts well before the 
     disease made it into the United States. Still, it took 
     President Clinton's efforts to put the full force of the 
     federal government behind finding an effective treatment for 
     HIV that slowed the progression of the disease from becoming 
     full blown AIDs. By 2011, more than 6o million people 
     globally had been infected by AIDS and 25 million had died.
       The legislative process has proven itself not to respond in 
     a timely manner to public health threats. The U.S. to be more 
     robust enough needs to have in place mechanisms designed to 
     respond systemically to federally declared public health 
     emergencies and deliver assistance to support state and local 
     governments in carrying out their responsibility to protect 
     the public health. This is the second time in three years 
     that a global health emergency has been declared that 
     required Congress to act by passing a new law to fund the 
     national response. This is the second time that the 
     legislative process failed to act quickly when the public 
     health threat was known and its consequences were clearly 
     understood by domestic infectious disease experts.
       On Aug. 24, 2014, the Democratic Republic of the Congo 
     Ministry of Health notified the World Health Organization of 
     an outbreak of Ebola virus. On Oct. 8, 2014, Ebola claimed 
     the life of Thomas Eric Duncan after he presented symptoms at 
     the time of admission to an emergency room. He had recently 
     traveled to a country where the disease was actively being 
     transmitted; he had a fever over too degrees accompanied by 
     abdominal pain, dizziness, nausea and headache. 
     Communications had gone to public health officials, 
     hospitals, and health-care providers from the Centers for 
     Disease Control stating that all patients should be asked 
     whether they had traveled to West Africa recently; and 
     checked for sytnptoms of Ebola, which include a dangerously 
     high fever, abdominal pain, nausea and headache. 
     Unfortunately, Mr. Duncan having all of the symptoms to be 
     considered a possible Ebola patient was not admitted for 
     observation, tests, and treatment, but instead sent home.
       As of April 13, 2016, globally there were 28,652 suspected 
     Ebola cases; 15,261 laboratory confirmed Ebola cases and 
     11,325 deaths from Ebola. Today, the CDC continue to monitor 
     for Ebola disease outbreaks. We can no longer act as if a 
     disease outbreak in a nation on the other side of the world 
     has no relevance or importance to the public health status of 
     communities within the U.S. In fact, we know that this is not 
     the case. H1N1, Ebola, and Zika viruses are hard lessons to 
     the global health community teaching that the world has 
     changed and that it is time the U.S. adjusts by becoming 
     proactive and cease being reactive in preparing for and 
     defending against public health threats and emergencies.
       Establishing a model that is quantitative and based upon 
     measurable changes in public health conditions around the 
     world as well as within the U.S. and having the capacity to 
     react quickly can save lives and assures public health system 
     stability. Our nation has some local health-care systems that 
     are second to none, such as the Houston Medical Center, but 
     our national public health system has glaring weaknesses when 
     handling pathogens that may be as dangerous as Ebola and as 
     contagious as the Spanish Flu. There are only four hospitals 
     in the U.S., and a total of 15-16 beds, for persons infected 
     with a human viral hemorrhagic fever: Emory University 
     Hospital in Atlanta has two Ebola beds, St. Patrick Hospital 
     in Missoula, Montana, has one or two; National Institutes of 
     Health in Bethesda, Maryland, has the capacity to treat two 
     patients in its Special Clinical Studies Unit, according to 
     the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at 
     the NIH; and Nebraska Medical Center in Omaha, reportedly has 
     a biocontainment facility with 10 beds total.
       The public health challenge for our nation is to 
     effectively address the sudden emergence of a highly 
     contagious pathogen with a mortality rate of 1 in 5 so that 
     the public health threat may be identified within hours of 
     patient zero, a team of public health experts deployed with 
     the requisite equipment and resources within 24 hours to any 
     point on the globe, establish field labs, hospitals, 
     coordinate with local public health officials, communicate 
     with public health and disease experts globally; type and 
     identify the threat; its method of transmission; and 
     determine what is needed to contain the threat; while 
     beginning work on treatments and potential cures. Their work 
     would also be to calculate mortality rates and the point when 
     the disease may become endemic over a 25 week time period to 
     stop its spread, which should include communicating to local, 
     state and tribal public health officials' the information 
     they will need to prepare to face the threat that may be just 
     a flight away.
       A Public Health Relief and Emergency Assistance Law is 
     overdue--I urge the leadership of the House and the Senate to 
     work in a bipartisan fashion to put on the desk of the 
     President of the United States a law that will be the cure 
     for the weaknesses in our nation's public health system when 
     it is faced with public health emergencies.
                                  ____

       President Obama is calling on Congress to fight the Zika 
     virus by providing $1.8 billion in emergency funds to:
       Rapidly expand mosquito control programs.
       Accelerate vaccine research and diagnostic development
       Educate health providers, women, and partners about the 
     disease.
       Improve health services and support for low-income pregnant 
     women.
       Help Zika-affected countries better control transmission.


                        How is Zika transmitted?

       Zika is primarily spread to people through the bite of 
     infected Aedes mosquitoes. It can also be transmitted from a 
     pregnant mother to her baby during pregnancy, though we do 
     not know how often that transmission occurs.
       There is also evidence that the Zika virus can be sexually 
     transmitted by a man to his partners. At this time, however, 
     there is no evidence that women can transmit the Zika virus 
     to their sex partners. You can learn more about the Zika 
     virus and guidance to avoid sexual transmission.


                   Where are people contracting Zika?

       People are contracting Zika in areas where Aedes mosquitoes 
     are present, which include South America, Central America and 
     the Caribbean. As the CDC notes, specific areas where the 
     Zika virus is being transmitted are likely to change over 
     time.


                   Who is at risk of being infected?

       Anyone who is living in or traveling to an area where the 
     virus is found is at risk for infection.


       Why are there specific recommendations for pregnant women?

       There may be a link between a serious birth defect called 
     microcephaly--a condition in which a baby's head is smaller 
     than expected--and other poor pregnancy outcomes and a Zika 
     infection in a mother during pregnancy. While the link 
     between Zika and these outcomes is being investigated the CDC 
     recommends that you take special precautions if you fall into 
     one of these groups:
       If you are pregnant (in any trimester):
       You should consider postponing travel to any area where the 
     Zika virus is active.

                          ____________________