Claude Jacob

NATIONAL. Proposed funding cuts may increase Zika threat: Health officials (Business Insurance)

By Gloria Gonzalez

The budget proposed by President Donald Trump combined with a bill to repeal President Barack Obama’s signature health care law could worsen the threat Zika poses to the United States this year, according to local and national health care experts.

As of May 24, 5,300 cases of Zika have been reported on the U.S. mainland, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“With summer coming, the Zika threat will get worse,” Claude Jacob, president of the National Association of County and City Health Officials and chief public health officer, Cambridge Public Health Department in Cambridge, Massachusetts, said during a webinar on Wednesday.

Despite the Zika threat, Congress took 233 days last year to provide emergency funding to address the disease, he said.

“The president’s proposed budget continues to threaten our ability to address Zika and other public health challenges,” Mr. Jacob said, citing the proposal to reduce the CDC budget by $1.2 billion, as well as a potential $40 million reduction to the Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity for Infectious Diseases program and a $109 million proposed reduction to the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Program.

“A cut of $1.2 billion to that agency would be dire because so much of CDC’s money goes to state and local departments to support their public health activities such as preparing for and responding to Zika,” said Laura Hanen, interim executive director and chief of government affairs of NACCHO. “You need to have sustained federal funding over time to deal with the day-to-day emergencies that health departments are facing. And then when something like Ebola or Zika comes along that has unique circumstances and needs additional funding from the federal government, then you can go to Congress and ask for supplemental funds.”

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