Zika virus: Senate reaches deal for $1.1.B relief package

Senate negotiators have reached an agreement on a spending package to fund efforts against the Zika virus to the tune of $1.1 billion, nearly $1 billion less than President Barack Obama had requested, according to the Associated Press. The Senate will likely vote on the funding on Tuesday.

"I have pushed for the $1.9 (billion) since the beginning. I think it's the right package," Sen. Patty Murray (D-Wash.) told the AP. "But I have reached an agreement with [Sen. Roy] Blunt (R-Mo.) on what we can put into a package, and we'll have a vote on it."

The deal follows a period of gridlock on the package, during with the federal government was forced to divert unused Ebola preparation funds to combat Zika instead. The administration rerouted $589 million earmarked for Ebola relief in April, but warned it would not be sufficient to fight Zika long-term.

Moreover, using these funds on something other than Ebola is extremely shortsighted even with the West African outbreak of the virus over, Rep. Nita Lowey (D-N.Y.) told U.S. News & World Report. "Building the public health infrastructure and our capacity to respond to outbreaks of the Ebola virus is no less important than it was a year ago," she said.

Meanwhile, the nation's southern border is bracing particularly hard for the potential spread of the Zika virus, according to USA Today. The spread of the virus in Mexico, which has reported 272 cases, has local and state officials in Texas on high alert, according to the article. Thirty-one cases have been reported in Texas, none of them contracted within the United States. The likelihood of an outbreak is less likely on the Texas side of the border due to the larger number of items such as window screens and air conditioners, which can be particularly effective in stopping the virus in its tracks, State Health Commissioner John Hellerstedt, M.D., told the publication.

To learn more:
- read the AP article
- read the USA Today article
- here's the U.S. News piece