Wednesday, June 1, 2016

Gov. Rick Scott wants Obama's immediate help to prevent Zika 'disaster'

Posted By on Wed, Jun 1, 2016 at 5:38 PM

click to enlarge Pinned specimens at the Orange County Mosquito Control Division lab. - PHOTO BY MONIVETTE CORDEIRO
  • Photo by Monivette Cordeiro
  • Pinned specimens at the Orange County Mosquito Control Division lab.
In an urgent letter, Gov. Rick Scott called on President Barack Obama and his administration to immediately provide Florida with the resources the state needs to fight the Zika virus

"Florida needs action from the federal government now," Scott says. 

Congress left on an almost two-week vacation last week without agreeing on how much money the country needs to battle the mosquito-borne virus. Florida's U.S. Sens. Bill Nelson and Marco Rubio tried, along with the Obama administration, to convince the Senate to approve a plan for $1.9 billion in funding for the virus. Ultimately, the Senate approved a $1.1 billion package, but the House of Representatives disagreed on the amount and approved a $622.1 million package. 

"The fact that Congress has not taken immediate action to protect our nation before hurricane season began and we have entered the heart of summer heat, heavy rainfall, and a growing mosquito population, is profoundly disappointing," Scott says in his letter. "However, in order to best protect the 20 million people in Florida and our many visitors from the spread of Zika, I cannot waste any time on disappointment. Florida needs action from the federal government now."

Scott is requesting 5,000 Zika preparedness kits and money to increase mosquito surveillance, mosquito abatement, mosquito control technicians and mosquito laboratory capacity. Scott added that those items were requested at an early May meeting with Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell, but Florida hasn't received them.

In his letter, Scott also included individual funding requests from Florida's mosquito control programs for personnel, insecticides, spraying equipment, traps and protection equipment. This week, we reported that Osceola County had sent a desperate letter to the state Health Department saying its mosquito control department needed almost $900,000 in additional funds to fight mosquitoes. Medical experts have said the U.S. is not ready for the virus because mosquito-control programs are run locally, without much coordination at the state and national level. 

In the U.S., there are currently 591 travel-related cases of the virus, according to a report released last week from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. As of Wednesday, the state Health Department says there are 162 travel-related cases of Zika in Florida, including 38 pregnant women. 

"There is no doubt that we fall further and further behind fighting the spread of this virus with every day that passes and we are not fully prepared," Scott says in his letter. "In Florida, we learned that the best way to protect our people during a hurricane is to have a good game plan before the storm comes. With the Zika virus, the storm is predicted by the CDC to be just around the corner, and we need federal action now to keep our citizens safe and healthy through what would no doubt be a disaster if this virus becomes mosquito-borne in our state."

Read the entire letter here.

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