Stop Zika Virus Before It Becomes Crisis
By Marco Rubio
May 6, 2016
Floridians know, summer means mosquitoes. It always has in our state. But this year, mosquitoes are more than a mere nuisance. They have the potential to carry with them the threat of the Zika virus, which has already spread with devastating effect throughout much of the Americas.
It is likely a matter of time before someone in Florida or elsewhere in the continental United States contracts Zika from the bite of a mosquito. This has already happened many times in American territories, most notably in Puerto Rico, where just last week Zika tragically claimed its first American life.
Everything new we learn about Zika underscores the threat it poses. We've learned it can be transmitted sexually in addition to by mosquitoes. We've learned it is linked to a tragic disease called Guillain-Barré syndrome. We've learned unborn children can suffer lasting damage when infected, even after the first trimester.
Furthermore, we increasingly have reason to believe that the virus will be difficult to combat. Some mosquitoes capable of spreading Zika have proved to be resistant to pesticides. And while there is hope that a vaccine may be developed, it will likely require increased public funding for basic research in order to hasten the process.
For these reasons and more, I believe the federal government must act immediately to combat the Zika virus before it becomes a major public-health crisis. President Obama has requested $1.9 billion in funding to help confront the problem. I support that request, as I believe it is crucial to stopping the spread of the virus.
Congress cannot afford to delay the process of securing funding. Washington will have to fund the fight against Zika sooner or later. It's a matter of when, not if. I believe we must act now, before this threat spirals into a national crisis, or else Zika will become much costlier and more difficult to stop. In national policy, just as in medicine, there is no problem that becomes easier to solve the longer you wait.
It is important to understand that this is not a political issue. There is no such thing as a Republican or a Democratic position on Zika. Protecting our people from disease is an appropriate function of the federal government, and those of us elected to public service have a responsibility to handle this with urgency. Those not comfortable with the president's funding request should offer a plan of their own.
This is a real and imminent threat to the public health of our nation and, perhaps most immediately, to the state of Florida. Our state is a transit point for all of Latin America. With the Summer Olympics to take place in Brazil, the nation hardest hit by this virus, the flow of people through our state who have been potentially exposed will only increase in the coming months.
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