Because of the threat from the Zika virus, leaders from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization declared public health emergencies both in the United States and abroad. More than 1,200 cases of the Zika virus have been confirmed in the United States and the three territories, including more than 100 expecting mothers. One of those expecting mothers is the first identified case in North Dakota. Florida’s governor declared a state of emergency back in February because of the Zika virus. It’s estimated that by the end of the year, the Zika virus could infect one in five people living in Puerto Rico.
Families across the country are rightly looking to Congress for action to mitigate and combat this urgent public health threat.
That’s why Senator Murray and I took to the floor of the U.S. Senate last month with many of the other Senate women to call on members of both sides of the aisle to join together to prepare our communities by voting to provide the full $1.9 billion in emergency funding our federal agencies have recommended as necessary to fight this potential pandemic. That very day, North Dakota’s first case of the Zika virus was confirmed in a pregnant North Dakota woman who will now live in fear that her child will suffer the dire birth defects this vicious virus can cause, which our public health experts estimate could cost $10 million per lifetime. And since that time, 20 percent more American mainland travelers have become infected.
We cannot wait for this virus to spread further. The U.S. Senate voted today to add $1.1 billion in emergency funding to combat the Zika virus to a spending bill, which is a good start, but it isn’t enough. At the same time, the U.S. House of Representatives has a bill that provides just one-third of the funds our health professionals need. Imagine if you got cancer, but were then only given half, or less, of a treatment.
We must not negotiate or play politics with the health of our children and families. No American should be satisfied with anything less than the full-scale defense our families and communities deserve — I’m certainly not. And I’ll keep fighting until every North Dakotan and every American is protected.