Experts explain $1.8 Billion to fight Zika virus


    President Barack Obama meets with members of this national security team and cybersecurity advisers in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington,Tuesday, Feb. 9, 2016. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

    The Obama administration Monday announced its intention to request over $ 1.8 billion in emergency funding to combat the Zika virus, a move which many believe is a critical step in ending the outbreak of the disease that is currently spreading throughout Latin America.

    The President discussed the request during an interview with CBS this morning, calling the mosquito passed virus "something we have to take seriously."

    Describing the "significant risk," Zika poses to pregnant women, Obama explained that the health community doesn't know what the exact relation between the virus and how it impacts babies.

    "There's enough correlation to take the outbreak seriously," Obama told CBS.

    Noting the "potential consequences," of the disease, Dr. Matthew Laurens, Associate Professor at the University of Maryland School of medicine, explained that they aren't necessarily definitive, advising that a greater investment in combating the disease may help tease out some of those answers.

    "More investigation needs to be done before we can control it," Laurens said, suggesting additional information gathering and studies.

    Dr. Leslie Wolf, Professor of Law at the Center for Law Health and Society at Georgia State Univesrity, also touted the importance of the funding, noting there are a number of benefits.

    Deploying this emergency plan, Wolf explained it will help get aid and prevention measure to the places that need it most and allow for us to invest in greater research.

    The White House detailed their plan to distribute the funding across numerous agencies: The Department of Health and Human Services, Agency for International Development and The Department of State.

    Part of the reason the funding will be split up "is because the agencies have different responsibilities and different expertise," Wolf explained.

    "We just have different skill sets that are set in different parts of the agencies," Wolf said.

    While Wolf conceded that coordination can be a challenge, she stressed the importance of addressing the numerous different elements of the disease.

    "A multi-pronged approach really is what is usually needed," Wolf said in most public health problems.

    The response laid out by the White House included funding for numerous ways of to "build on our ongoing preparedness efforts and will support essential strategies to combat this virus."

    Among the efforts and strategies poised to benefit from the funding are the expansion of mosquito control programs, accelerating vaccine research and diagnostic development and "enhancing the ability of Zika-affected countries to better combat mosquitoes and control transmission," according to The White House.


    Wolf explained that each of these elements comes into play at different times. While research to help us better understand the disease is important, prevention plays a greater role in the early stages of the disease.

    Even if the science evolves to where we have a vaccine to treat the virus, Wolf cautioned "we should never abandon prevention measures," because treatment and prevention work together. One may have more prominence based on where we stand in the process of combating the disease, but Wolf said "they are all necessary because the work together."

    One benefit of making such a significant investment in fighting Zika, Laurens described is that we can serve and protect our own citizens and "also can support other developing countries in their efforts to combat the disease."

    International collaboration will also be essential, Wolf suggested, while the threat in the United States must not be as great, Wolf explained we still need to be involved in responding to the spread of the Zika virus.

    "We live in a global world, the idea that a disease is going to be located in only one place just doesn't happen anymore," Wolf said noting that it doesn't take much time for a disease to travel.

    "The other reason is we have the resources and the expertise," Wolf said, adding that as "good global citizens we have to help tackle these problems."

    Information from the Associated Press contributed to this report.


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