WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Speaking to reporters in White Plains on Thursday, U.S. Rep. Nita Lowey called for emergency funding to battle the deadly Zika virus that appears to be spreading in the United States.
The Harrison Democrat, who represents Westchester and Rockland counties, called upon House Speaker Paul Ryan to immediately reconvene Congress, said Elizabeth Stanley, Lowey's spokeswoman.
“It is outrageous that, at a time when the deadly Zika virus is spreading within the continental United States, Congress sits on its hands and refuses to provide emergency funding needed for an effective response," Lowey said.
“The consequences of this public health emergency are too severe for political gamesmanship. Speaker Ryan should immediately reconvene the House of Representatives to provide emergency funding to stem the tide of this public health crisis."
“Zika is typically mild when you get it, but when it hits during pregnancy it can cause permanent damage to the baby,” said Dr. Robert Amler, dean of the School of Health Sciences and Practice and Institute of Public Health at New York Medical College in Valhalla.
Dr. Amler joined Lowey to address medical concern and health dangers associated with Zika.
“CDC and our local health departments are working hard to prevent Zika from spreading, but there are still many unknowns. Additional important work must be done to learn everything needed to fully contain transmission of this unusual virus," Amler said.
President Obama in February requested $1.9 billion in emergency funding to fight Zika's spread. The U.S. Senate in May passed $1.1 billion in emergency funding, but a Zika funding bill is yet to be signed, according to a news release.
A Miami case of the Zika virus led to the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) initiating a travel warning within the United States, according to news reports.
Funding for Zika is running out. By the end of August, funding that the Administration spends on vaccines, diagnostic development, testing and private sector partnerships will be exhausted, according to Stanley.
That will "delay when a safe and effective Zika vaccine is available to the American public,” said Sylvia Burwell, secretary of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.