Republicans Own The Zika Virus Epidemic

Since February Republicans have repeatly been warned by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) that it was inevitable that the Zika virus would invade America unless Congress provided the CDC the critical funds needed to battle the invasion. Now, six months later, pregnant women and women hoping to get pregnant in South Florida are terrified over the growing Zika epidemic. In the past three weeks, the number of confirmed Zika infections in the greater Miami area has increased to 36 and have pregnant women in the area panicked with fear. Some are literally hiding in their homes, afraid to go outside and risk a bite from a mosquito that may be carrying the Zika virus.

The New York Times published an article August 19th quoting pregnant women and their doctors in and around Miami. Here are some excerpts from that article:

Some women are considering temporary moves, leaving their homes, families and doctors to stay with relatives or friends far away from a Zika zone until they give birth.

One local woman, Unique Robinson, a 22-year-old licensed practical nurse who is not working now and lives in Broward County, said she is terrified. She rarely ventures outside her home, except to go to the mall or the movies. “I’ve looked it up and seen the babies, how they come out. I don’t think I could handle that,” she said, her voice breaking.

One local Doctor was quoted, “Every pregnant woman who comes in for prenatal care wants Zika testing, you can’t say no to them. They’re very frightened. I’m doing 15 Zika tests a day.”

Lori Tabachnikoff, 36, who is 24 weeks pregnant with her first child and lives in South Miami, said she was fortunate because her employer … has allowed her to work from home to minimize her time outdoors. Even so, mosquitoes sneak in. She has been bitten five times so far this summer, and she and her husband recently went to the health department at 4 a.m. to get in line to be tested. There were already four couples ahead of them.

The Zika outbreak in Miami was predicted and could have been prevented or greatly reduced had Republicans fully funded President Obama’s February request for emergency funding. The President requested $1.9 billion six months ago for mosquito control and vaccine development to protect pregnant women. Had the Republican Congress followed the advice of the CDC back in February and appropriated the critical emergency funding, sufficient mosquito control would be in place and a vaccine could be in development.

The CDC issued this latest warning on Monday, August 22nd:

  • Pregnant women should avoid travel to the designated area of Miami Beach and Wynwood, Florida because active Zika virus transmission has been confirmed in both of these areas.
  • All pregnant women in the United States should be assessed for possible Zika virus exposure and signs or symptoms consistent with Zika virus disease at each prenatal care visit.
  •  Yesterday, the CDC announced the first case of Zika infection in Tampa, 250 miles from Miami suggesting the virus has jumped across the state.

Are Republicans aware of the Zika fear that will grip pregnant American women and their families with this warning? Do Republicans care about the pain the Zika epidemic will have on the American public? Have Republicans considered what this travel warning will do to disrupt business and tourism in Florida as well as other Gulf States as this virus spreads?

The Republican House and Senate have refused to pass adequate Zika funding and then tied their partial funding to unacceptable poison pills inserted in that bill. Now that Zika infections have exploded in Florida and is threatening many Gulf Coast states, the Republicans are trying to blame Democrats. Republicans control both houses of Congress and only they can force their extremist members to vote for a clean and fully funded Zika bill.

Senator Grassley claims he cares about pregnant women and their babies, but he continues to make excuses for Republicans’ refusal to agree to a clean and fully funded Zika bill. Grassley claims there is money available in other areas, but the CDC officials who manage those funds say they’re not usable or unavailable. Why is Grassley refuting the scientific and health community when women’s health emergency exists? The CDC and the health community have been right in their predictions and warnings since February and have far more credibility that Grassley. Grassley is choosing to defend the extremists in the Republican Party rather than providing emergency health care funding for America’s pregnant women and their families.

The Republicans claim to be the party of life, yet by refusing to fully fund and pass Zika prevention they are putting American women and their unborn fetuses at great risk. The Zika virus that infects a pregnant woman can cause severe and devastating damage to a developing fetus. We know some women will be forced to choose abortion if they’re faced with a severely deformed fetus. The Republicans refusal to properly fund Zika prevention is creating incredible fear for pregnant women, a preventable epidemic and will likely result in more abortions.

The Zika virus has proven beyond a doubt how the Republican Party has become a party mired in extremist obstruction. Republicans don’t deserve reelection if they are incapable of providing basic funding to keep American women and their families safe.

 

by Rick Smith
Posted 8/24/16

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