Surgeon General: More funding needed to combat Zika

South Florida native addresses concerns for Sunshine State

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Two new cases of Zika reported Friday in Florida bring the total number of cases in the state to 160. Of those infected, 37 are pregnant women.

U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy is from South Florida, so he understands well that this mosquito season has the potential to be unlike any other.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the U.S. is less than one month away from a full-blown mosquito epidemic.

Speaking from Washington on Friday, Murthy said his biggest concern is that the U.S. doesn’t have enough money for Zika funding, and Congress doesn’t appear to be in any rush to find the money.

“In order for us to do this for the rest of the summer -- and that’s what is going to be necessary -- we do actually need additional resources to do that,” Murthy said. “As you are aware, the administration has requested funds from Congress to support the Zika response.”

Murthy said more money is needed to develop a vaccine to expand testing for the Zika virus and for mosquito control. But on Thursday, Congress abandoned the Capitol for a two-week break, without addressing how to combat the virus.

“It’s a situation I’ve seen a number of times, where we know how to treat an illness, but we can’t get the medicine to someone, and that’s what we are looking at down the line, if we don’t get the resources in place to sustain the response,” Murthy said.

Florida is also facing a shortage of special mosquito traps that are designed to help detect the virus. State workers ordered 300 of the traps, but they’ve only received roughly 120 because of a backlog.

Murthy said it’s too early for residents to get concerned about that.

“There are definitely efforts underway between the federal government and Florida to make sure mosquito efforts are advanced,” Murthy said. “In fact, we have more funds which have now been available for states to apply to assist in mosquito control measures.”

Blood screening for the Zika virus is now being offered by private companies like Quest Diagnostics, rather than screenings through public health officials.

If you are concerned that you or someone you know has been infected with Zika, Murthy suggests you contact your personal doctor first to point you in the right direction. 

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