Editorial: Zika spread should spur Congress to act

Published Aug. 22, 2016

How far will the Zika virus have to spread before Congress goes back to work and takes action? Gov. Rick Scott confirmed Friday that the virus is now being spread in Miami Beach, which should be a wakeup call for Washington.

Officials say at least five people in Miami Beach, including three from out of state, have been infected by the virus. Zika can cause birth defects, and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advised pregnant women to avoid traveling to South Beach, a tourist hot spot. Zika is an economic threat as well as a health care threat to Florida, and it's past time for Congress to allocate the appropriate money to contain it.

Scott, who canceled a Tampa visit Friday to head to Miami, asked the CDC for 5,000 more antibody kits, more lab help and 10,000 prevention kits. He also directed state agencies to work closely with hotels, restaurants and tourist spots in Miami-Dade County to help with prevention efforts and mosquito spraying. Those are all important steps, but Florida needs more help. The state has confirmed 36 cases of local transmission of Zika, and 577 people in Florida have contracted the disease primarily through travel abroad. At least 68 pregnant women have been infected.

Congress should return to Washington and pass a straightforward Zika bill with at least the $1.1 billion included in an earlier House bill that was loaded up with unrelated issues. The virus clearly is spreading faster than health officials can contain it, and there has to be a greater sense of urgency before more Floridians are put at risk.