By Stephanie Johnston
The money will go towards enhancing efforts to better detect microcephaly and other negative birth outcomes cause by the Zika virus infection.
U.S. Senators Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse and U.S. Representatives Jim Langevin and David Cicilline have secured the funding for Rhode Island just weeks after the first cases of locally-transmitted Zika were identified in Florida, according to a joint announcement.
In the statement, Senator Jack Reed stressed, “the presence of the Zika virus in Florida is an alarming development, and as reports of Zika continue to increase in the continental United States, it’s critical that we are vigilant in our efforts to contain the virus and ensure the health and safety of our state and nation.” Reed is a member of the Appropriations Committee, who is working to ensure the $1.9 billion emergencysupplemental funding request President Obama set forth in February to combat the virus.
According to the World Health Organization, since February, the number of countries reporting cases of Zika has grown from 26 to 55. In Rhode Island, there are 21 cases of Zika, and more than 1,600 confirmed cases across the country, stated the news release. These cases have all been linked to international travel.
“This federal funding will help our state promptly identify expectant mothers and infants who may be infected with Zika, so they get the health care they need as quickly as possible,” said Senator Sheldon Whitehouse.
The funding is set to be administered through the Rhode Island Birth Defects Program at the Rhode Island Department of Health, according to a news release.
“I am glad that the CDC has made these funds available so that Rhode Island can continue its surveillance, prevention and response efforts to combat the spread ofZika,” said Congressman Jim Langevin in a statement Tuesday. Langevin, along with all other Rhode Island Senators and Representatives, believes more needs to be done by Congress to address the disease.
Congressman David Cicilline stated, “Although this is an important first step, it’s critical that we do more. I will continue fighting in Congress for robust funding that vigorously addresses this public health crisis.”