MIAMI. Public health officials prep for Zika (Naples Daily News)

By Liz Freeman

Deep funding cuts to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention would severely undermine response to a renewed Zika threat that’s expected as the summer mosquito season ramps up, a panel of public health officials said Wednesday.

The consequences of a $1.2 billion cut, which is one-eighth of the CDC’s entire budget, would trickle down to county health departments in Florida and Texas that were hard hit by Zika last summer.

The county agencies relied on federal support for laboratory testing and ground-level surveillance.

President Trump’s budget proposal also includes cutting $109 million to the public health emergency preparedness program and another $40 million to the epidemiology and laboratory capacity program, according to Laura Hanen, interim executive director and chief of government affairs for the National Association of County and City Health Officials.

Hanen was part of a press briefing Wednesday about the status of Zika and how Trump’s proposed cuts would come on top of one-time Zika funding last year that expires shortly.

Congress allocated $1.1 billion for a Zika response in 2016.

There is no more money coming behind that unless Congress recommends a comprehensive approach,” she said.

What’s really needed is a permanent public health emergency fund so there isn’t a scramble to secure money to react each time there’s a public health threat, said Dr. Paul Jarris, chief medical officer with the March of Dimes.

“That is not how FEMA operates,” Jarris said, referring to the Federal Emergency Management Agency that responds to hurricanes and other natural disasters.

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