Bennet, Gardner Tour Fort Collins CDC Lab Leading the Fight Against the Zika Virus

Senators Receive Briefing at Facility Responsible for Researching and Combating the Disease

Fort Collins, CO - Today, Colorado U.S. Senators Michael Bennet and Cory Gardner toured the Center for Disease Control's (CDC) Division for Vector-Borne Diseases (DVBD) and received a briefing on the facility's role in combating the Zika virus. The Fort Collins center is the headquarters for the CDC's Division for Vector-Borne Disease, which focuses on diseases spread through mosquitos, ticks, and other vectors, and is charged with researching and combating the Zika virus.

"Families across the country, especially pregnant women, are concerned about the growing threat of Zika," Bennet said. "We're fortunate to have these scientists right here in Fort Collins. They've been on the frontlines studying the virus and working on treatment and prevention. It's why we fought to block the administration's cuts that would have decimated the program, and we'll continue to make sure there are resources in place to battle the disease."

"I appreciate the opportunity to meet with experts at the CDC in Fort Collins to learn more about Zika and CDC's efforts to contain the virus," said Gardner. "I'll continue to monitor the situation closely through ongoing communication with the CDC, as well as Congressional briefings and hearings."

Prior to the recent Zika virus outbreak in Brazil, the team at Fort Collins had been working on Zika virus research and response since 2007. Since the December outbreak in Brazil, which included reports of birth defects, the Fort Collins DVBD has been an active part of the response. The Division sent epidemiologists as well as laboratory teams to Brazil to assist with diagnostics. In the U.S., Fort Collins has been a primary testing facility for potential cases of Zika. They are currently partnering with public health organizations and the private sector on the development of diagnostics, vector control, the transmission of pathogens, and challenges related to insecticide resistance.

In 2010, the administration planned a $26.7 million cut that would have virtually eliminated the vector-borne program that is largely run out of the Fort Collins facility. Scientists spoke out against the cuts, saying the cuts were short sighted and would cause the CDC to become reactive rather than proactive. Bennet worked with the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education to prevent the cuts.

The Zika virus is primarily transmitted through the Aedes mosquito, but any mosquito can transmit the disease after biting an infected person. For most, the symptoms of Zika are mild, but when pregnant women become infected there is early evidence its effects can be devastating. Zika has been linked to microcephaly in developing fetuses, which can lead to below-average head size, developmental difficulties, and brain damage. These potential effects have spurred the World Health Organization to declare the rise in Zika-linked birth defects and neurological conditions a Public Health Emergency of International Concern.