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Rubio Questions CDC On Preparedness Plan In The Event Of Locally Transmitted Zika Case In Florida

Jun 15, 2016 | Comunicados de Prensa

Washington, D.C. U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) today questioned the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) about its preparedness plan in the event of a locally transmitted Zika virus case in Florida. Rubio made his comments during a Florida delegation hearing on Zika outbreak preparedness, where he also asked the panel of Zika experts about diagnostic testing, necessary funding and the federal government’s role in aiding vaccine development for the virus.

A partial transcript of Rubio’s remarks is below. A video is available here, and a broadcast quality video available for download is available here

Florida Delegation Zika Hearing
Washington, D.C.
June 15, 2016

Senator Marco Rubio: “So if I present at an urgent care or emergency room with symptoms like Zika, flu-like symptoms, I’m not going to be tested for Zika because it’s not commercially available. Hence it is possible, perhaps even likely, that we already have a mosquito born infection in Florida and we just don’t know it?”

CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden: “Yes. There are a couple things. First, about 4 out of 5 people with Zika appear not to have symptoms. So it may well be that we don’t know about the first case because the person is asymptomatic. If you come back from a place where Zika has spread and you have symptoms consistent with Zika, there is a way for you to get tested at the hospital.”

Rubio: “I guess my point is, let’s suppose I’ve never traveled abroad, I haven’t been anywhere else, didn’t go to Puerto Rico even, and I have Zika. Unless you are symptomatic, or if you’re symptomatic but you’re not pregnant, you may have been infected by a mosquito. We may already have a mosquito infection in Florida, maybe multiple, we just wouldn’t know until such time as someone ultimately presents the symptoms, is tested and we have run the travel records, is that correct?”

Frieden: “Correct. In fact, we’ve already had a dengue case currently this year in Florida.”

Rubio: “On the mosquito control front, was there a reduction in the state budget two years ago or one year ago? I was asked about that recently. There was a significant reduction in funds for mosquito control.”

T. Wayne Gayle, Executive Director, Lee County Mosquito and Hyacinth Control Districts: “A couple of years ago there was a reduction in the research funding, but that was corrected the following year and it was just a misunderstanding about how mosquito control is funded. There were some additional monies added to the mosquito control budget and it ended up being vetoed, but that is correct.”

Rubio: “Doctor Stevenson, I want to ask you, funding the 1.9 billion dollars, how important is this funding for the development of a vaccine, and what is the government’s role in the development of this vaccine which is ultimately what we all want to get to?”

Dr. Mario Stevensen, Chief of Division of Infectious Diseases, University of Miami: “Most of the efforts right now are being spearheaded by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) so I think they have a legup regarding the pursuit of a vaccine. The ability of universities to participate in that effort is obviously dictated by availability of funding. The University of Miami does not have any federal funding for any Zika efforts. We’ve received Gates funding to look at how the virus does damage to the brain, but has yet to receive federal funding for its efforts.”

Rubio: “My last question, I’m not sure who it should be directed to, perhaps all of you, what are the costs, and obviously the human costs are incalculable, but what are the costs of caring for a child born with microcephaly?”

Frieden: “We know from other severe birth defects that the lifetime cost of caring for a child varies depending on how intense the illness or condition is, how long they will survive, can range from 1 to 10 million dollars for the cost of life for a child.”