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OUR VIEW: Dithering Congress ignores growing risk of Zika

Published: August 10, 2016 12:00 AM

With health officials advising pregnant women to avoid areas of Miami where the Zika virus is present, it becomes even more imperative for Congress to put aside its partisan bickering and move forward to provide funding to address the mosquito-borne virus before it becomes a full-blown epidemic.

Republicans and Democrats remain at odds over funding for preventative measures aimed at preventing Zika from gaining a foothold in this country. More than 1,600 cases already have been reported in the United States, but their origins have been travel-related. The Miami cases -- a few more than a dozen -- do not appear to be related to travel, which raises the prospect that the virus has reached this country on its own.

The Zika virus is transmitted not only by mosquitoes, but through sexual contact. It is especially dangerous for pregnant women because it can cause brain damage and other serious birth defects in infants born to mothers infected by the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised pregnant women not travel to the Miami area where the Zika infections have occurred. This apparently is the first time the CDC has warned Americans against traveling within their own country because of a health risk.

A serious health issue is making itself known and must be addressed, yet Congress continues to dither over funding.

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Republicans and Democrats refuse to compromise on the issue. President Barack Obama has requested nearly $2 billion to combat Zika, but the GOP has slashed his request nearly in half, ostensibly because of concerns about excessive spending. Funding for Zika has been caught up in other partisan battles, including the bid to defund Planned Parenthood.

Unable to reach agreement on a reasonable means of funding, Congress seems to have chosen to do nothing, kicking the can down the road until it returns from summer vacation.

In the meantime, pregnant women in Miami are being urged to remain indoors. That's a primitive remedy for a serious health concern. And it's shameful response on the part of Congress.

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