As public health officials brace for the potential spread of Zika in the United States this summer, the Senate said this week it will work with House leaders on a final bill to provide adequate funding to combat the virus.
But congressional Democrats said Republicans aren't moving fast enough and may be putting Americans at grave risk, The New York Times reported.
Last month the Senate approved $1.1 billion to combat the disease, less than the White House administration's request for $1.8 billion but House Republicans only approved a $622 million bill. The funding is not enough to contain the virus, which is carried by mosquitos and can cause severe birth defects. Recent research reveals the virus can also be sexually transmitted.
"The mosquitoes are not waiting for Congress to act," Sen. Chuck Schumer, (D-NY) said during a news conference, according to NYT.
Florida has reported 128 confirmed cases, all travel-related, as of June 1, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, but the Miami Herald reports the number has since climbed to 172.
Miami will also be "ground zero" for a possible outbreak this summer because of its tropical weather, its large number of Latin America travelers and the Aedes aegypti and aedes albopictus mosquitoes that are present in South Florida, Jason James, chairman of Baptist Health South Florida department of obstetrics and gynecology, said during a public forum this week, the newspaper reported.
"We're really in a stage of prevention right now," he said.
Meanwhile, health experts called for greater public health preparation to combat Zika, Ebola and other future epidemics in a piece for The New England Journal of Medicine.
"Stronger public health capabilities at a national level are the essential first line of defense against potential pandemics, as we and other members of the National Academy of Medicine Commission on a Global Health Risk Framework for the Future have argued," wrote Victor J. Dzau, M.D., president of the National Academy of Medicine, and Peter Sands of Harvard Kennedy School's Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government.
And, they noted, it is more cost-effective to invest in preparedness, then to spend in response.