Zika Hits Washington State, Women’s Access to Health Care Stressed
First case of Zika virus reported in Washington state earlier this week
Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, delivered opening remarks at a hearing Wednesday addressing the growing threat of the Zika virus. The alarming spread of the Zika virus continues to pose a serious threat to families – in particular pregnant women and their children.
In her remarks, Murray highlighted the need to educate health care providers and families about the virus, as well as improve health care services for low-income women in regions where this virus poses a greater risk. Murray continued to emphasize the importance of prioritizing women’s access to reproductive health care in light of the spreading Zika virus. The Administration’s supplemental funding request is an important first step in coordinating these efforts.
“I know many of us are hearing from families in our home states who are deeply concerned about the spread of the Zika virus, which can have such tragic consequences – especially for young families,” Murray said. “So I’m glad we have the opportunity to speak with experts who are on the frontlines of our response efforts, and discuss ways Congress can best support this critical work. There is still a lot we need to learn about the virus, but one thing that is clear is that we can’t wait to act.”
Murray suggested education should be the first line of defense.
“We need to educate health care providers and families about this virus, and improve health care services for low-income pregnant women in areas where Zika poses a risk,” she said. “According to the CDC and the Pan American Health Organization, women in many Zika-affected countries face barriers to reproductive health care, as well as high rates of sexual violence. I believe it’s critical that in Zika-affected countries, we do everything we can to ensure women have access to the full range of reproductive health care, including access to family planning services.”
She then called on Congress to act.
“I’m very hopeful that here in Congress, we can put the politics aside and work together to ensure we provide much-needed tools and support,” she said. “And, with the health and wellbeing of many families at risk, I hope we can do so quickly.”
She said that diagnosing the virus is, in itself, a task.
“The scientific consensus at this stage is that four out of five of those who become infected show no symptoms,” she said. “For the other 20 percent who do, the most common result is a week of mild flu-like symptoms. However, in rare instances, there are indications that some people infected with the virus have developed Guillain-Barre syndrome, a potentially life-threatening neurological condition.”
She continued, “There is growing evidence that Zika can lead to microcephaly, a birth defect that usually results in abnormal brain development, with possible serious long-term consequences. The CDC has also reported that in Brazil, two women miscarried after being infected with Zika, and is exploring whether there may be other potential consequences for pregnant women who become infected.The same mosquitos that carry the virus in South America can be found in many parts of the United States. The virus has spread to Puerto Rico, putting pregnant women there at risk, and many are concerned that it will make its way to the mainland when the warm weather returns. And as of this week, there are cases being reported as far north as my home state of Washington as a result of travel. Speaking for moms and grandmothers across the country—this is deeply concerning to me. So, now is the time to prepare for that possibility, and to develop strategies for controlling the mosquitos that harbor the virus.”
Is this a case of financially exchanging one virus with another?
“Democrats are going to continue urging bipartisan work to ensure women everywhere have the ability to plan their pregnancies, especially in light of this virus,” Murray said. “The Administration has laid out an aggressive plan to fight the Zika virus and has requested supplemental funding to ensure all the appropriate resources are being put toward protecting families here at home and abroad. Some of my Republican colleagues have suggested that additional funding isn’t needed to respond to Zika. They believe the administration should simply shift funding away from Ebola response efforts, which are still ongoing. I disagree.