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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The Irony of Ironies via Republican Poison Pills

H.R. 2577 is a conglomeration of a number of bills (Military Construction, Veterans Affairs, and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017) that  the Senate needs to take action on failed a super-majority vote (60 votes) for cloture (the ability to be considered and voted for/against on the Senate floor).  One version of that bill was passed by the House and a different version of that/those bills passed the Senate.  Thus, it’s now gone to conference committee to work out the wrinkles between the two versions.

This conference agreement now includes the Military Construction and Veterans Affairs and Related Agencies Appropriations Act, 2017, the Zika Response and Preparedness Appropriations Act, 2016, the Zika Vector Control Act, and an unacceptable ‘division’ on funds to be rescinded from programs the Republicans don’t particularly like.  That’s what came to the floor for a cloture vote, and it failed miserably — 52-48.

Really, Senator McConnell?  It’s too difficult for the general public to understand?  I don’t think so.

It’s one thing for Republicans to short-change President Obama’s funding request.  It’s another thing to start attaching ‘poison pills’ to the proposed legislation that limit or outright prohibit women’s choices.  When you introduce a funding proposal that limits the distribution of contraceptives and that prevents family planning organizations like Planned Parenthood from participating in the effort to help women in Zika-affected areas delay pregnancy, from a disease that not just contracted from a mosquito bite, but from sexual activity with an infected male partner, did you really think that Senate Democrats would just roll over and vote for that?

When you start gutting provisions of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, did you honestly believe that Democrats would just roll over and just vote for that?

SEC. 2. MOSQUITO CONTROL WAIVER.
Notwithstanding section 402 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (33 U.S.C. 1342), during the 180 day period following the date of enactment of this Act the Administrator of the United States Environmental Protection Agency (or a State, in the case of a permit program approved under subsection (b)) shall not require a permit for a discharge from the application by an entity authorized under State or local law, such as a vector control district, of a pesticide in compliance with all relevant requirements of the Federal Insecticide, Fungicide, and Rodenticide Act (7 U.S.C. 136 et seq.) to control mosquitos or mosquito larvae for the prevention or control of the Zika virus.

When you start stripping funding for the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), did you really expect Democrats to just roll over, see the light and vote your way?  Or, when you decide to fund your bill by stripping balances  from the Departments of Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education, did you really expect Democrats to go “oh yeah, that’s a great idea” and vote in favor of your bill?  Or better yet, given that we already know that you stripped a bunch of funding from the State Department for Embassy security that might have made the outcome in Benghazi drastically different, did you really expect the Senate Democrats to let you strip even more funding for the State Department and other Foreign Operations?

Are you nuts?  They certainly weren’t and neither am I.  It took me hours to sort through all the links on Congress.gov, but here’s what I found:

DIVISION D–RESCISSIONS OF FUNDS

Sec. 101.
(a) $543,000,000 of the unobligated amounts made available under section 1323(c)(1) of the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (42 U.S.C. 18043(c)(1)) is rescinded immediately upon enactment of this Act.

Sec. 1323. Community health insurance option. Requires the Secretary to offer a Community Health Insurance Option as a qualified health plan through Exchanges. Allows States to enact a law to opt out of offering the option. Requires the option to cover only essential health benefits; States may require additional benefits, but must defray their cost. Requires the Secretary to set geographically adjusted premium rates that cover expected costs. Requires the Secretary to negotiate provider reimbursement rates, but they must not be higher than average rates paid by private qualified health plans. Subjects the option to State and Federal solvency standards and to State consumer protection laws. Establishes a Start-Up Fund to provide loans for initial operations, to be repaid with interest within 10 years. Authorizes the Secretary to contract with nonprofits for the administration of the option.

(b) $100,000,000 of the unobligated balances available in the Nonrecurring expenses fund established in section 223 of division G of Public Law 110-161 (42 U.S.C. 3514a) from any fiscal year is rescinded immediately upon enactment of this Act.

DIVISION G–DEPARTMENTS OF LABOR, HEALTH AND HUMAN SERVICES, AND EDUCATION, AND RELATED AGENCIES APPROPRIATIONS ACT, 2008
Title I–Department of Labor
Title II–Department of Health and Human Services
Title III–Department of Education
Title IV–Related Agencies
Title V–General Provisions
Title VI–National Commission on Children and Disasters

(c) $107,000,000 of the unobligated balances of appropriations made available under the heading Bilateral Economic Assistance, Funds Appropriated to the President, Economic Support Fund in title IX of the Department of State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs Appropriations Act, 2015 (division J of Public Law 113-235) is rescinded immediately upon enactment of this Act: Provided, That such amounts are designated by the Congress as an emergency requirement pursuant to section 251(b)(2)(A)(i) of the Balanced Budget and Emergency Deficit Control Act of 1985.

Personally, I side with Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid who declared, “It is unbelievable that somebody would have the audacity to come to the floor and say it’s Democrats’ fault. A significant amount of American women, especially young women, go to Planned Parenthood, and the Republicans want to say, ‘you can’t do that.’” Why indeed would Democrats not just prohibit Planned Parenthood from providing any services, but gut the EPA’s ability to assure clean water and harm HHS’s ability to manage health insurance options for not just Puerto Ricans, but millions of American families across our nation?  Apparently Sen. McConnell completely missed the irony of claiming to improve women’s health by prohibiting and defunding health opportunities for women altogether.


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