Federal Money for State-Level Zika Prevention May End Before Summer Onslaught

Local health officials shouldn’t expect more help after cash runs out, CDC warns

Money that has helped states with Zika virus tracking and education may come to an end by this summer, putting at risk efforts to better understand the virus and the severe birth defects associated with it, according to a report from Kaiser Health News (KHN).

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told state health officials in a meeting last month that Zika funding is running out and that additional support should not be expected, according to an article posted on the Frontline website. An agency spokeswoman declined to confirm the Frontline report to KHN, saying in an email that the CDC does not yet have a budget for the next fiscal year and cannot speculate on how funding for Zika might be affected.

Last year, Congress provided $1.1 billion to the CDC for Zika response and preparedness. Most of this money went to local and state public-health departments.

According to the CDC, 58 babies in the U.S. had been born with birth defects related to the Zika virus as of April 11. Those defects include microcephaly, a condition in which a baby’s head and brain are smaller than normal, causing developmental delays and other problems.

The potential end of federal funds may affect states’ ability to track Zika-related birth defects, said Cindy Pellegrini, the senior vice president of public policy and government affairs at the March of Dimes.

Before Zika emerged, microcephaly was so rare that most states didn’t track it. If states can no longer afford to do so, it will be difficult for health officials to know for certain which cases of birth defects were triggered by the Zika virus, Pellegrini said.

The CDC and the March of Dimes recently launched Zika Care Connect, a website on which the public can search for providers who are qualified and willing to treat women and children with Zika virus infection. The site currently covers only 10 states.

Source: Kaiser Health News; May 2, 2017.