Here’s What You Need to Know About the Zika Virus

HHS

— by Sylvia Mathews Burwell, HHS Secretary

If you’ve read the headlines over the past few months, you’ve probably heard about the Zika virus. You might wonder how serious the virus is and what steps you can take to help protect yourself and your family.

HHS is committed to giving the American people the tools they need to live healthy and productive lives. And information can often be one of the best tools. So I want to share with you some of the things we have learned about this virus, and what you should know.

mosquito-580pxWhat is Zika?


Zika is a virus
that is primarily spread by mosquitoes, though it can also be sexually transmitted. As of July 20, there have been 5,200 cases of Zika in the United States and its territories.

The biggest risk of Zika is to pregnant women or women of childbearing age. Zika virus can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, as well as other severe fetal brain defects.

Zika can cause symptoms including fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes. An illness from Zika is usually mild, and the symptoms typically will only last several days to a week. Based on previous outbreaks, approximately 80 percent of people who have Zika will not have any symptoms.

How Do I Prevent Getting Zika?

Our colleagues at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have laid out helpful prevention guidance, which you can find right here. This is particularly important if you travel to an area with active Zika transmission. It is important to remember to follow the guidance not only when you are in an area with active Zika transmission, but also for three weeks after you return.

Pregnant women should not travel to areas with active Zika transmission. If you’re pregnant and you have traveled to an area with Zika, you should visit your doctor or other health care provider as soon as possible, even if you don’t feel sick. This checklist offers some topics and questions you should bring up.

Another way you can prevent Zika is by preventing the most common way Zika spreads – mosquito bites. You can reduce your risk of being bitten by:

  • Wearing long-sleeved shirts, and long pants when outside.
  • Using EPA-registered insect repellents.
  • Installing screens on your windows and doors.
  • Emptying containers that collect water, or notifying the proper authorities if you see places where water has collected. The most common type of mosquito that spreads Zika can reproduce in as little water as a bottle cap.

CDC’s Response to Zika. Prevent Zika. (1) Cover up and use insect repellent. (2) Remove standing water. (3) Keep mosquitoes out of your home. (4) Use condoms. Learn more at www.cdc.gov/zika.

What Is All This Talk About Funding?

Back in February, the Obama Administration asked Congress for $1.9 billion to fight Zika and protect pregnant women. It was a request based on the advice of our most experienced public health experts.

These funds would be used to protect pregnant women in the United States by better controlling the mosquitoes that spread Zika, by developing new tools like vaccines and better diagnostics, and by conducting crucial research so we can better understand the effects of Zika, especially on infants and children.

Congress recently left Washington without providing these additional funds. At HHS, we’re going to do everything we can to prevent, detect and respond to this virus here in the United States, and especially in hard-hit places like Puerto Rico, but hope there is action on this necessary funding as soon as the Congress returns.

How Can I Help?

We are always stronger against public health threats when we work together. So the best thing you can do right now is to make sure more people get more information on the Zika virus.

Help us reach others by sharing this blog post on Facebook and Twitter. Click the “Share” button in the top right corner of this post, or click the “Tweet This” button at the bottom.

And share this information with your family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers. Make sure that everyone knows the risks, and how to stay safe.

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4.683 Million Unanswered Questions in Halbig

Appeals will continue, but let’s take the Halbig decision at face value. How much will this decision cost the working poor? The amount varies with income and other variables, but for a 40 year old individual making $30,000 a year, the tax credit was estimated at $1345 (KFF estimate here). Retroactive tax bills under Halbig will be significant and everyone impacted will have trouble paying for health insurance going forward (about 57% of exchange participants were previously uninsured, according to a KFF survey).

How many people will be hurt?

Read more here at “The Incidental Economist” ….

#ItsNotUpToThem Week

— Roberta Lange, Nevada State Democratic Party Chair

A few weeks ago, the United States Supreme Court issued a backwards ruling that allows for-profit corporate CEOs to make medical decisions that should be made between a woman and her doctor.  That’s right – in the year 2014, the Supreme Court thinks female employees’ healthcare decisions should be made in a corporate boardroom, not a doctor’s office.

This week, the United States Senate will vote on legislation to address the Supreme Court’s ruling and ensure women who work at for-profit corporations have access to reproductive healthcare.  While Democrats like Senator Reid, Reps. Dina Titus and Steven Horsford, and Erin Bilbray support ensuring women have access to reproductive healthcare, Republicans like Dean Heller and Joe Heck have consistently voted to restrict women’s access to contraception.

In support of the Senate bill, Nevada Democrats are launching #ItsNotUpToThem week.  All week we will be highlighting how dangerous the Republican agenda is for the health of Nevada women.  Because whether it’s Mark Hutchison leading the charge to go back to a time where private insurance companies could treat being a woman as a pre-existing condition, or Joe Heck voting to weaken the Violence Against Women Act, it’s time we send a message to Nevada Republicans that women’s healthcare decisions aren’t up to them or corporate bosses.

Sign your name here to tell Republicans it’s 2014, not 1914.    


Please note that Roberta mentioned Candidate Erin Bilbray who is running agains Rep. Joe Heck, but failed to mention Candidate Kristen Spees who is running against Rep. Mark Amodei to represent those of us who are unfortunate enough to live in NV-Congressional District 2!

Corporate Rights Trump Women’s Health in Hobby Lobby Ruling

‘This ruling goes out of its way to declare that discrimination against women isn’t discrimination.’

– Lauren McCauley, staff writer at Common Dreams

SCOTUS5

Defenders of women’s health and reproductive freedom are reacting with anger to the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision on Monday which ruled that an employer with religious objection can opt out of providing contraception coverage to their employees under the Affordable Care Act.

Writing for the majority side of the 5-4 decision in Burwell v. Hobby Lobby, Justice Samuel Alito argued that the “the HHS mandate demands that they engage in conduct that seriously violates [employers’] religious beliefs.”

Rights advocates were quick to condemn the court’s decision.

“Today’s decision from five male justices is a direct attack on women and our fundamental rights. This ruling goes out of its way to declare that discrimination against women isn’t discrimination,” said Ilyse Hogue, president of NARAL Pro-Choice America.

“Allowing bosses this much control over the health-care decisions of their employees is a slippery slope with no end,” Hogue continued. “Every American could potentially be affected by this far-reaching and shocking decision that allows bosses to reach beyond the boardroom and into their employees’ bedrooms. The majority claims that its ruling is limited, but that logic doesn’t hold up. Today it’s birth control; tomorrow it could be any personal medical decision, from starting a family to getting life-saving vaccinations or blood transfusions.”

Ninety-nine percent of sexually active women in the U.S. use birth control for a variety of health reasons, according to research by women’s health organizations.

“The fact of the matter is that birth control is a wildly popular and medically necessary part of women’s health care,” said Nita Chaudhary, co-founder of UltraViolet, a national women’s advocacy organization.Chaudhary adds that despite it’s clear necessity for the reproductive health of the majority of women, one in three women have struggled at some point to afford birth control.

Monday’s ruling focuses specifically on companies that are “closely-held,” which analysts report covers over 90 percent of businesses in the United States.

The dissenting opinion, penned by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and supported by Justice Sonia Sotomayor and mostly joined by Justices Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer, acknowledges that the decision was of “startling breadth” and said that it allows companies to “opt out of any law (saving only tax laws) they judge incompatible with their sincerely held religious beliefs.”

The opinion was based largely on the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA), which provides that a law that burdens a person’s religious beliefs must be justified by a compelling government interest.

“There is an overriding interest, I believe, in keeping the courts ‘out of the business of evaluating the relative merits of differing religious claims,'” Ginsburg adds, concluding: “The Court, I fear, has ventured into a minefield.”

Echoing Ginsburg’s concern, Rev. Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State called the ruling “a double-edged disaster,” saying it “conjures up fake religious freedom rights for corporations while being blind to the importance of birth control to America’s working women.”

Similar reactions were expressed on Twitter following the news. Summarizing the crux of the decision, NBC producer Jamil Smith wrote:

The Hobby Lobby decision means that in terms of personhood, corporations > women. And Christianity > everyone else.

— Jamil Smith (@JamilSmith) June 30, 2014

Others, joining Ginsburg’s outrage that now “legions of women who do not hold their employers’ beliefs” would be denied essential health coverage, expressed their opinions under the banner “#jointhedissent.”

#jointhedissent Tweets

The majority opinion leaves open the possibility that the federal government can cover the cost of contraceptives for women whose employers opt out, leaving many to look to the Obama administration for their next move.

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Observing LGBT Health Awareness Week

A statement by HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius

LGBT Health Awareness Week is an important time to bring attention to the unique health needs of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Americans and to highlight the progress we’ve made in our work to ensure LGBT Americans have the same rights and protections as other Americans, especially through implementation of the Affordable Care Act.

It’s critical for the LGBT community and all Americans to remember that Monday, March 31 is the last day of open enrollment and those who miss out can’t get covered through the Marketplace until 2015.

Access to affordable care has long been an obstacle to good health and financial security for the LGBT community and all Americans.  On average, LGBT Americans suffer from higher rates of cancer, obesity, HIV/AIDS and mental illness than the rest of the nation. For those with chronic conditions such as HIV/AIDS, dollar caps on annual and lifetime coverage meant astronomical bills and debt for many in the community.

But thanks to the Affordable Care Act, it is a new day. Lifetime and annual dollar caps are a thing of the past and no one can be denied coverage based on their health history.

Legally married couples are treated equally when it comes to coverage or financial assistance, no matter who they are married to.  And, for the first time, Marketplace coverage is now affordable for the LGBT community and Americans all over the country.

Remember: Monday, March 31 is the last day of enrollment – that’s only five days left to get everyone covered who still needs it.

This Administration is committed to improving the health of all Americans, including LGBT Americans, and we look forward to continuing this work during LGBT Health Awareness Week and beyond.
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