Faced with the emerging threat of Zika in the US and spread of Zika in the US territory, Puerto Rico (where the US has responsibility) the US Congress is paralyzed. Prisoners of unwise promises to voters, ongoing penny pinching inaction is likely to have expensive consequences in the future.
The CDC has issued a Level 2 Travel Alert (Practice Enhanced Precautions) for Puerto Rico. The CDC predicts that 20% of the population of Puerto Rico will become infected with Zika during the current outbreak. The significant travel between Puerto Rico and the US mainland will pose a risk to the US mainland during the summer mosquito season. Southern states such as Florida and Texas are anticipating outbreaks.
The Obama Administration is requesting $1.9 Billion dollars (0.05% of the Federal Budget) to address the crisis. Significant amounts would go to mosquito control and Zika prevention in Puerto Rico. Congress is apparently not convinced that Zika is an emergency or are in a state of Zika denial. Zika denial is enhanced by strong priors to oppose public health protection programs for ideological reasons. After weeks of failure to act, rumors are that the Obama administration will transfer about $600 million targeted for Ebola to Zika. Unfortunately, this amount is inadequate to address the Zika crisis and may disrupt ongoing efforts to produce an Ebola vaccine. Ebola is not going away, even though the recent epidemic has subsided. Complacency can lead to future crisis. Refusing to fund public health programs may save pennies today. Being unprepared when a full blown crisis can be much more expensive and have tragic and unnecessary human costs.