Zika Virus: Congress Fails To Pass Bill That Would Have Funded Research

With the knowledge that the Zika virus can now be transferred from a woman to a man during sexual intercourse, why is congress still dragging their feet on funding?

This is the question a lot of people were starting to ask when congress failed to pass a bill that would have allocated $1.1 billion dollars to Zika virus funding.

The Zika virus is incredibly difficult to diagnose.

According to the Washington Post, roughly 80 percent of people affected by the virus have absolutely no symptoms. The majority of the rest of Zika patients suffer only mild symptoms such as: headaches, abdominal cramping, fever, fatigue, rash, back pain, numbness/tingling in hands/feet, and the swelling of extremities.

Some people do wind up with significant side effects, such as Guillain-Barré syndrome.

The Guillain-Barré syndrome causes muscle weakness and can lead to paralysis.

Still, the people most affected by the Zika virus are pregnant women.

While the symptoms of Zika can be incredibly mild, or even non-existent, that’s not the case for fetuses. A pregnant woman affected by the Zika virus is in danger of having a child that has severe abnormalities, the worst of which involves a condition that causes the fetus’ brain to become underdeveloped. That condition is called microcephaly and is easily diagnosed during sonograms, or after the child’s birth, because the baby has a much smaller head than normal.

A child suffering from microcephaly may never be able to survive on their own. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention explained at a telebriefing in April that the lifetime cost of treating a child with the Zika related disorder could often reach up to $10 million dollars.

Originally, it was thought that the Zika virus could only be spread through mosquitoes. After that, scientists learned that the virus could also be spread through sex, but evidence suggested that only males could spread the virus during intercourse. It was believed that the Zika virus could only be passed from men to women or from one man to another during sex.

However, this week, the New York Times reported that the first incident of a female infecting a male with the Zika virus had been documented in New York City.

zika virus research fails to pass

“This represents the first reported occurrence of female-to-male sexual transmission of the Zika virus,” a report issued by the CDC and the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene said, according to the New York Times.

The introduction of a new method of spreading the Zika virus is troubling. It means that the epidemic can begin to spread quicker and more efficiently, especially without funding to develop treatments or vaccines – which don’t currently exist.

“The more we learn about Zika, the more concerned we are,” the director of the CDC, Dr. Thomas R. Frieden said, according to the New York Times.

Zika virus research bill

If the CDC is so concerned about the spread of the Zika virus and is labeling it as a dangerous epidemic, why won’t congress pass a bill allocating funds for it?

The unfortunate answer is: politics.

A recent bill, sponsored by Republicans, would have allocated $1.1 billion in funding to Zika virus research, control, and treatment. However it fell 60 votes short of what was needed in order to advance to the Senate.

According to the Guardian, it wasn’t rejected because politicians don’t want to fight the Zika virus, it was because those who drew up the bill attempted to sneak in added provisions that had nothing at all to do with the virus in question.

Republicans attempted to add provisions to the Zika funding bill that would restrict abortion, alter the healthcare law, undo the ban that prevents flying the Confederate flag at federal cemeteries, and overturn the clean water regulations.

Essentially, the bill was stopped because one party attempted to sneak their agenda pass the other party that refused to back down on their agenda.

That truth issues no comfort to the people affected by the Zika virus and it offers even less to the mothers and fathers of children suffering from severe side effects as a result of the virus.

All people want to know is when the government will drop their agendas and start caring about them and their need to be healthy and safe.

[Photo by Victor Moriyama/Stringer]