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From the staff of the Tampa Bay Times

CDC grants state $1.3 million to fight Zika

Federal health officials are giving Florida more than $1.3 million to help prevent the spread of Zika, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced Friday. 

All told, the CDC is distributing $25 million  to 53 state, city, and territorial health department in areas at risk for outbreaks of the mosquito-borne Zika.‎ 

The funds, which can go toward the purchase of repellent, screens, and supplies for Zika prevention kits, will be available next week. 

"These CDC funds will enable states and territories to strengthen their Zika preparedness and response plans,” said Dr. Stephen Redd, who oversees the CDC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response. “Although the continental United States has not yet seen local transmission of the Zika virus, mosquito season is here, and states must continue to both work to prevent transmission and prepare for their first local case.”

The news comes as Democrats and Republicans in Congress continue to clash over funding for Zika. President Obama has called for the release of $1.9 billion to combat the virus in the United States. The Republican-led House approved $1.1 billion. But Senate Democrats blocked the spending proposal earlier this week, saying it wasn't enough. 

Republican Gov. Rick Scott has also advocated for more federal funding. As of Thursday, 227 people in Florida have been diagnosed with Zika, including 40 pregnant women, according to the state Department of Health. All of them contracted the virus while traveling abroad. 

"Governor Scott continues to be disappointed in the federal government’s failure to come to a resolution on this issue," Scott spokeswoman Lauren Schenone said in a statement.

Most people who have Zika show no symptoms. But pregnant women who contract the virus can give birth to babies with a severe birth defect known as microcephaly. Infants with the condition typically have small heads and underdeveloped brains. 

On Tuesday, a pregnant woman who conceived in Haiti gave birth to a baby with microcephaly in Florida.

The CDC funds were awarded based on population -- and whether a specific area has a large number of Aedes Aegypti mosquitoes, which are known to carry the Zika virus. 

The CDC also awarded $567.5 million to 62 public health departments nationwide as part of its Public Health Emergency Preparedness program. Agencies in Florida will receive $27 million. 

In a press release Friday, CDC officials called the grants "an important tool to help communities prepare for and respond to public health emergencies, (and) to expand mosquito control capabilities and develop a Zika vaccine and diagnostics." 

But the agency acknowledged more resources would be needed to help communities prepare for and respond to the potential spread of Zika.

Earlier this year, the CDC held back some money for the Public Health Emergency Preparedness program from the states. It's not clear what the net impact is in Florida.

[Last modified: Friday, July 1, 2016 4:14pm]


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