A hurricane or tropical storm hitting Florida may worsen the Zika virus outbreak, U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan warned in a letter Thursday urging congressional leaders to take immediate action on more federal funding to combat the disease, which can cause severe birth defects.
“Hundreds of people have been infected in my home state of Florida as the disease continues to spread,” Buchanan, a Longboat Key Republican, wrote in his letter.
“The situation in Florida worsens each week, and now looming rainfall from tropical storms threaten to create a fertile breeding ground for the mosquitoes that carry the virus.”
Through Wednesday, the state Department of Health had reported 47 locally transmitted cases of the virus, 569 travel-related cases and 80 cases involving pregnant women.
Buchanan noted Tom Frieden, head of the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, told reporters earlier this week in Washington, D.C., that his agency may run out of Zika funding by the end of this month. “The cupboard is bare,” Frieden said. “Basically, we are out of money and we need Congress to act.”
President Barack Obama asked for $1.9 billion in Zika funding early this year, but before leaving on a seven-week break, Congress stalled on a $1.1 billion proposal, which was passed by the House but rejected by the Senate. Congress is scheduled to return after the Labor Day holiday.
Also Thursday, state Agriculture Commissioner Adam Putnam announced that his office has detected Zika in three mosquito samples from an area of Miami Beach where the virus has been transmitted. “This find is disappointing, but not surprising,” Putnam said in a prepared statement.
“Florida is among the best in the nation when it comes to mosquito surveillance and control, and this detection enables us to continue to effectively target our resources. Miami-Dade County, the city of Miami Beach, and state and federal partners will continue to work aggressively to prevent the spread of Zika.”