Although Florida Gov. Rick Scott announced on Monday that the Wynwood neighborhood in Miami is no longer an area of active Zika transmission, the Florida Department of Health confirmed on Friday that local transmission of the virus is occurring in an expanded area of Miami Beach.
With no action from Congress, Scott has approved another $10 million to combat the spread of Zika in Florida, bringing the total state funds authorized for Zika up to $36.2 million. Last week, Scott traveled to Washington DC to demand immediate approval of federal funding for Zika.
“The expansion of the Miami Beach area where local transmission is occurring highlights the need for continued aggressive mosquito control measures and for Congress to immediately approve federal funding to combat Zika,” Scott said in a statement.
“Every minute that passes that Congress doesn’t approve funding means more time is lost from researching this virus to find a vaccine to help pregnant women and their developing babies,” Scott added.
Although symptoms of Zika are typically mild, the virus can be very dangerous for pregnant women. Zika has been linked to birth defects, including a rare congenital condition called microcephaly in which infants are born with abnormally small heads and incomplete brain development.
The National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases declared this summer that there have been over 6,400 confirmed cases of Zika in the United States and its territories as of July 27. Currently, there are no vaccines or treatments available to prevent the virus.
With more than 70 cases of locally acquired Zika in Florida, and the danger posed by the virus to pregnant women, Trust for America’s Health (TFAH) has decided the time for action is now. Last week, the non-profit released the first in a series of creative cartoons and editorials in support of emergency funding to curb Zika.
“Unfortunately, considerable Zika-related damage has already been done to our nation—and it is likely irreversible,” said Richard Hamburg, interim president and CEO of TFAH. “Our nation’s failure to act severely hampers the full response that is greatly needed. However, the sooner we do act, the sooner we can prevent further damage and destruction to our nation’s most vulnerable: our newborns.”
The first editorial highlighted the price of inaction, noting that 16 babies in the United States have been born with Zika-related birth defects. Furthermore, the cost of fighting Zika for the average American family is quickly adding up. The editorial argues that by providing funding to fight the virus now, the nation can avoid long-term costs in the future.
TFAH also released an image available for anyone to use on Facebook, Twitter or other social media platforms. The image depicts a boardroom full of people surrounding a whiteboard with a list of threats, including terrorism, global warming, and the budget deficit. Two mosquitos are prominently featured in the background. The caption reads: “They know we are here, right?”
“Without additional support, health departments and communities are on their own. Either resources will be shifted from other pressing needs or communities will have insufficient means to perform mosquito testing, infection prevention, disease tracking and other actions to protect against this devastating virus,” said Hamburg.
TFAH plans to release additional editorials and cartoons over the next several weeks supporting emergency funding to combat Zika.