Congress finally declares war on Zika

Published 7:00 am Friday, September 30, 2016

Finally, after eight months of delay, our federal government has acknowledged a growing threat to the general public, the Zika virus.

What began as a virus only seen overseas, which would have caused some to reconsider their travel plans to certain areas, is now being transmitted by mosquitoes stateside.

Relatively unknown in the U.S. only months ago, Zika quickly became a household name, even causing concern during a discussion of routine travel to Puerto Rico for a parent conference during this week’s Picayune School Board of Trustees meeting. Members of the Board were so concerned, they tabled the matter.

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While Zika has been known for decades, recent coverage of the virus began with travelers overseas becoming infected. For a time after that, the public was reassured that travel was the only threat, and to reconsider going to affected countries.

But now, there have been more than 130 confirmed cases of the virus being transmitted within the state of Florida. As many have predicted, U.S. mosquitoes are now transmitting the virus.

So the damage is done. Now it’s time for the federal government to put that $1.1 billion to use in not only reducing the spread, but hopefully in creating an effective vaccine.

Like any mosquito borne virus, Zika is frightening to those who could become infected. But Zika comes with an added fear, causing birth defects. While West Nile should still be of concern, it rarely leads to death, and doesn’t cause children to be born with microcephaly.

When a virus begins to affect our ability to continue the species, it creates a situation in which the federal government should have reacted much faster.

And while $1.1 billion is a lot, it will take much more to not only play catch-up, but to get in front of a situation that could become even more dire if we wait.