ASM Letter on Zika and Emerging Infectious Disease Funding

The Honorable Thad Cochran
Chair
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
113 Dirksen Senate Office BuildingWashington, DC 20510-2402

The Honorable Barbara A. Mikulski
Ranking Member
Committee on Appropriations
United States Senate
503 Hart Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-2003
The Honorable Roy Blunt
Chair
Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies
United States Senate
260 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-2508
The Honorable Patty Murray
Ranking Member
Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies
United States Senate
154 Russell Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510-4704

Dear Chairman Cochran, Senator Mikulski, Chairman Blunt and Senator Murray,

The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) urges Congress to act immediately to pass the Administration’s request of $1.8 billion for emergency supplemental funding to intensify mobilization of public health and scientific initiatives against the Zika virus. The emergency funding for Zika would increase preparedness and replenish funding which is being redirected to Zika, as a stop gap measure, from important efforts to protect against Ebola. It is critical that new funding be enacted to address Zika. In doing so, it is also essential to sustain federal agency efforts against Ebola and to ensure that progress against a multitude of other new and emerging infectious diseases is not delayed.  Public health crises will continue to emerge and will require new funding to prevent diverting funding from other important research and public health programs. 

The Zika virus outbreak is a growing public health threat and is one of many emerging viral infections.  For example, the Ebola virus outbreak in West Africa remains a vulnerability to global health security.  Dengue Fever virus infects more than 400 million people a year.  A severe outbreak of Yellow Fever is now occurring in Angola, with travel associated cases exported to a number of other countries. Approximately 40 percent of the world’s population live in an area with Aedes aegypti mosquitos, one of the primary mosquito vectors of Yellow Fever, Dengue Fever, Chikungunya and Zika virus. 

Infectious diseases are among the leading causes of mortality and morbidity in the United States and worldwide.  It is critically important to provide increased funding to the NIH, CDC and other agencies to expand our scientific knowledge of dangerous viruses and to develop vaccines, treatments and diagnostics against the increasing threats from menacing pathogens. New funding would increase US readiness and response capacity focused on pathogen transmission and control, scientific discovery, laboratory capacity, epidemiology and surveillance. Prompt actions can help slow the spread of Zika and accelerate Zika vaccine research and development, steps vital to controlling the virus now. 

The ASM encourages Congress to act expeditiously to provide needed new resources to enable an aggressive response to familiar and unexpected risks from infectious diseases.

Thank you for your support for public health and biomedical research.

Sincerely,

Lynn W. Enquist, Ph.D., President, American Society for Microbiology
Stefano Bertuzzi, Ph.D., M.P.H., CEO, American Society for Microbiology
Ronald M. Atlas, Ph.D., ASM Public and Scientific Affairs Board