Is the U.S. Prepared for a Full-Blown Zika Outbreak?

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Answer by Valerie Jarrett, Senior Advisor to President Barack Obama, on Quora:

There is no question that the Zika virus is an emergency. It's why President Obama has been tracking it since the outbreak first surfaced in Brazil, and it's why he asked Congress to join him in his efforts to combat the spread of the virus since February. Mosquito season has now started, and the Obama administration is doing all it can to meet the needs of state and local health officials who are working to protect their communities.

There are almost 3,000 Americans who have confirmed cases of Zika. More than 500 pregnant women have evidence of being infected, and those are just the confirmed cases.

Recognizing the urgent need, we've identified and redirected close to $600 million in funds as a stopgap measure to jumpstart time-critical activities, such as alerting healthcare providers and the public, providing public health laboratories with diagnostic tests, and investigating and reporting cases both domestically and internationally.

However, it is not enough to address the Zika threat. That's why, for five months now, President Obama has been asking Congress to do its part and provide emergency funding to help officials effectively implement necessary control measures. And yet, they have failed to act.

Without this funding, states and communities will not be able to hire as many responders to spray in locations where a mosquito transmission of Zika may have been reported. The development of a vaccine will be delayed. There will not be testing available for everyone who needs it, especially women who are pregnant or planning to become pregnant. Congress must act now, pure and simple.

The President is briefed regularly on our efforts to combat the virus on the ground by his homeland security and public health teams - including Health and Human Services Secretary Burwell, the CDC's Director Dr. Frieden, and the Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, Anthony Fauci. In fact, the President was briefed just this morning. Here's what he said:

"When there are emergencies, when there are public health emergencies, when we know that we have the chance to prevent serious tragedies in the lives of families and protect the health and safety of our populations, and particularly our children, then...politics need to be set aside. So Congress should not leave, should not adjourn until they have this done."

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