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The Zika Virus Reveals the Problem with the US Public Health System

The Zika Virus Reveals the Problem with the US Public Health System
April 28
17:52 2016

The rapid spread of the Zika virus has erupted a media frenzy, with doomsday-like headlines like “Zika has spread to 43 countries.”

Evidently, the virus will be hitting the US at large by summer and it has had already a detrimental effect in Puerto Rico.

The disease is primarily transmitted through mosquitoes carrying the virus. Although the symptoms are usually similar to that of a mild cold, it’s the effect on pregnant women and their offspring that is of alarming concern. When a pregnant woman contracts the virus, her offspring is born with birth defects.

With the impending arrival of the virus, the US government is attempting to raise emergency funding to combat the spread of the virus.

So far, the Obama administration has temporarily shifted funds, specifically $598 million from the unspent Ebola budget to help manage the Zika spread.

However, congress has denied the recent request for Zika to receive its own funding. Instead, the decision was pushed to the annual budget meeting in the fall.

Not to mention that Ebola is still very much a problem. It may not be an international public health emergency anymore, but funding is still needed to make sure we have the resources to prevent it.

QZ.com points that it often backfires when funding is removed from health programs. “Cuts to tuberculosis control programs in the 1970s and 1980s led to a resurgence of the disease a decade later, costing New York City alone over $1 billion. The threat of bioterrorism spurred increased funding for public health emergency preparedness in the wake of 9/11, but this has been cut by more than a third over the last decade. Since 2002, CDC funding to support state and local efforts to monitor and control mosquito- and tick-borne diseases was cut by 74%. Meanwhile we’ve seen the spread of West Nile virus and the emergence of dengue and chikungunya in Florida, Texas and Hawaii.”

The budget for public health, which is almost always underfunded, is determined only once a year. This then triggers poor planning for epidemics.

Also the wealthier the state or city, the better the public health budget. So, there is a large disparity of public health spending between areas all over the US. “But when you’re fighting diseases like Ebola or Zika, you’re only as strong as your weakest link. So no matter where you live, you should be personally concerned when poorer communities don’t have the resources they need to, say, control mosquitoes this summer,” writes Celine Gounder for QZ.com.

With that being said, the Zika Virus will affect the poorer communities the most. But, if it isn’t controlled there, it will then spread to more privileged communities. This is why the Zika Virus deserves some serious funding.

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Kerri Adams

Kerri Adams

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