Health Care

As Zika season looms, Senate panel approves $100 million in mosquito control funding

A group of aedes aegypti mosquitoes in a mosquito cage at a laboratory in Cucuta, Colombia. The World Health Organization has said it may be necessary to use controversial methods like genetically modified mosquitoes to wipe out the insects that are spreading the Zika virus across the Americas.
A group of aedes aegypti mosquitoes in a mosquito cage at a laboratory in Cucuta, Colombia. The World Health Organization has said it may be necessary to use controversial methods like genetically modified mosquitoes to wipe out the insects that are spreading the Zika virus across the Americas. AP

Here we go again.

A Senate panel approved a bill that authorizes an additional $100 million in grant funding to fight the mosquito-carrying Zika virus. The bill could now be voted on by the full Senate before summer begins, but only if Congress doesn’t repeat last year’s delay that saw the money tied up by political wrangling for months.

The money approved Wednesday would fund local mosquito-control efforts, centers that test for the virus and research into improving mosquito-control programs.

“One of the best ways to curb the spread of the Zika virus is to eliminate the insects known to carry it,” Sen. Bill Nelson, D-Fla., said in a press release. “As summer approaches, Florida’s mosquito population is going to rise, and we need to make sure our local mosquito-control boards have the resources they need to protect their communities.”

Florida had 1,093 cases of Zika picked up by people traveling abroad and 279 cases spread within the state in 2016, most within Miami-Dade County, according to the state Department of Health.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., emphasized the importance of taking “proactive measures.”

“It is extremely important that states and localities have the tools they need to combat Zika and other illnesses spread by mosquitoes,” Rubio said in a press release.

While Gov. Rick Scott said the disease was no longer spreading in Florida, experts have warned the same factors of last year exist today, with the added problem of a warm winter that could mean the survival of more eggs of Aedes aegypti, the mosquito species that transmits the virus.

Former President Barack Obama proposed in February 2016 to invest $1.9 billion to fight the spread of Zika. It took Congress seven months to approve $1.1 billion.

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