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Donovan asks: Does U.S. have resources to fight Zika?

February 3, 2016 By Paula Katinas Brooklyn Daily Eagle
U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan is seeking information from the Centers for Disease Control about how it plans to combat the Zika virus and if there is more that Congress can do to help. Photo courtesy of Donovan’s office
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In the wake of the World Health Organization’s declaration that the Zika virus is spreading explosively throughout the Americas, U.S. Rep. Dan Donovan has requested information from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on how the health care agency plans to protect Americans and if there is anything that Congress can do to help.

Donovan (R-C-Southwest Brooklyn) wrote a letter to Dr. Thomas Frieden, the director of the CDC, on Feb. 2 to ask how the agency plans to address what the congressman called a shortage of available testing sites for the Zika virus.

“The CDC is the most capable public health organization on the planet. Still, this obscure disease did not threaten the public’s health in any meaningful way until now, and the public has a right to know: Does the government have sufficient capacity to handle increased demand for diagnostic tests? If not, then what does the CDC need from Congress to adequately protect the public’s health?” Donovan asked.

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The Zika virus has been confirmed in five patients in New York City, the New York Post reported on Jan. 28.

It was initially believed that the Zika virus was spread through mosquitoes, but the CDC cited a case in Dallas in which a patient contracted the virus through sexual contact, raising alarm bells in the health care community, according to a CNN report on Tuesday.

While in most cases the Zika virus is accompanied with mild symptoms, health care officials are investigating a possible link between the virus and birth defects in children born from infected mothers. The children were born with abnormally small heads and brain damage.

The most common symptoms of the Zika virus are fever, rash, joint pain or conjunctivitis. Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache.

The CDC has issued travel advisories to regions with a high risk of Zika transmission, including Central and South America.

New York is one of only four states in the U.S with laboratories capable of testing for the Zika virus, according to Donovan.

“Given the freedom and frequency of travel within the United States, the presence of a diagnostic laboratory in one state will likely have little impact on that state’s ability to identify and contain Zika victims,” Donovan wrote in his letter to the CDC. “I would like to know what steps your agency is taking to increase the capacity of the public health system to test for Zika.”

The Zika virus is spreading fast and furiously, according to the World Health Organization, which issued a warning last week that the disease is likely to spread explosively in the Americas. At last count, more than 20 countries had confirmed cases of the disease.

According to the CDC’s website,, prior to 2015, outbreaks of the Zika virus took place mainly in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. But in May of 2015, the Pan American Health Organization issued an alert regarding confirmed Zika infections in Brazil.


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