Editorial Cartoon by Graeme MacKay, The Hamilton Spectator – Wednesday August 3, 2016
With Zika outbreak in Florida, Congress plays political games
The Centers for Disease Control did a remarkable thing Monday. For the first time in its history, it issued a travel warning over health conditions in the continental United States. What led the federal medical experts to take such a step? Local transmission of the Zika virus in the Wynwood neighborhood of Miami.
The warning is straightforward. Among the precautions: Pregnant women should avoid the area. The transmission, health officials say, was likely via mosquito, while most of the previous mainland U.S. cases were linked to travel to Latin America or Puerto Rico, where the virus is more prevalent, or to having unprotected sex with an infected person.
That the virus is now mosquito-borne in the U.S. is alarming enough. Worse, six of the 10 newly discovered cases were people who had no symptoms — they were discovered during a door-to-door canvass conducted by the Florida health department.
Contrast the CDC’s response with that of Congress, which so far has done little more than play politics with the health and lives of Americans. The Obama administration sought $1.9 billion from Congress to combat the spread of the virus and to develop a vaccine, among other responses.
By the time congressional Republicans were down with it, the budget was whittled down to $1.1 billion, and included money set aside to fight the Ebola virus. They they also added some poison pills, including restrictions on access to birth control as part of their continuing attack on Planned Parenthood, and loosening some environmentally necessary guidelines on pesticide use.
So Democrats in the Senate blocked the measure and everyone went on holiday. Meanwhile, the Obama administration redirected more than $500 million to the fight against Zika, and has already spent about half of that. (Source: Los Angeles Times)