Washington, D.C. - Colorado U.S. Senator Michael Bennet this week called on Congressional leaders to consider and pass emergency funding to combat the Zika virus outbreak. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) is leading the United States' research efforts through its Division of Vector-Borne Diseases (DVBD) located in Fort Collins. The agency has said research could slow to a halt without additional funding to continue its research.
"Colorado families are rightfully concerned with the spread of Zika, particularly with the onset of summer and mosquito season," Bennet said. "Researchers at the CDC facility in Fort Collins are working hard to help combat the virus and prevent it from spreading further. Congress should quickly approve this additional funding to ensure this crucial research will continue."
On several occasions, Bennet has urged Congress and the Administration to beef up the federal government's efforts to combat the virus. In February, he joined 45 senators in urging the Administration to coordinate an interagency response plan to address the spread of the Zika virus both at home and abroad. Following the Administration's request for $1.9 billion in emergency research funding, Bennet and a group of senators introduced a bill to fund the request and called on the Senate Appropriations Committee to quickly approve the funding. In April, he joined his Senate colleagues in urging Senate leaders to immediately pass the emergency supplemental funding request to help combat the Zika outbreak.
Earlier this year, Bennet visited the CDC's Division for Vector-Borne Diseases located in Fort Collins, where he toured the facility and received a briefing from researchers about their work to combat the Zika virus. Back in 2010, Bennet prevented funding cuts that would have virtually eliminated the vector-borne program that is largely run out of the Fort Collins facility.
Full text of Bennet's letter:
May 10, 2016
Dear Leaders McConnell, Reid, Pelosi, and Speaker Ryan:
I write to request that Congress immediately consider and pass emergency funding to combat the Zika virus outbreak. As the threat of the Zika virus continues to expand, our country needs an immediate response to protect those at risk. Congressional inaction should not inhibit critical research and planning efforts.
In a matter of months, we have seen the Zika virus spread to more than two dozen countries and territories throughout the Americas and Pacific Islands, including Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and American Samoa. The World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika virus a public health emergency on February 1, 2016. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has now confirmed the link between Zika virus and microcephaly, a serious birth defect that can include absent or poorly developed brain structures, defects of the eye, hearing deficits, and impaired growth. Zika virus has also been linked to Guillain-Barre Syndrome, a neurological disorder that results from an immune system attack.
In the U.S., the CDC has led the Zika virus response efforts. The Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, located in Fort Collins, Colorado has been at the forefront of these efforts. The Division has been working on Zika virus research since the first outbreak occurred in 2007. Following the most recent outbreak in December, the team at Fort Collins has been active in research, diagnostics, vector control and additional products for prevention or intervention. The emergency funding will make it possible for the Division to accelerate its work in the areas of diagnostics, research, vaccine development and additional response efforts.
Congress must pass additional funding before research slows to a halt. With the upcoming summer and advent of the 2016 Olympics in Brazil, we need to intensify our efforts to ensure we are doing everything possible to protect our citizens.
I appreciate your commitment to emergency preparedness for Zika virus as the CDC and the Fort Collins Division of Vector-Borne Diseases lead response efforts on a national and global level but urge you to move as quickly as possible to address this global challenge.
Thank you for your consideration.