ASM Supports $1.9 Billion Emergency Funding to Combat Zika

May 18, 2016

The Honorable Richard C. Shelby 
United States Senate 
304 Russell Senate Office Building 
Washington, DC 20510-0103

Dear Senator Shelby: 

The American Society for Microbiology (ASM) urges Congress to significantly increase Zika targeted support as close as possible to the level requested by the Administration. The $622 million just proposed in the House Appropriations Committee’s Zika Appropriations Response Act is too far below the Administration’s earlier request of $1.9 billion for emergency Zika funding. The House bill also imposes unnecessary spending conditions that could impinge Zika related research, divert already allocated funding away from important Ebola and other public health programs, and would be available only until the end of September. The multi-faceted actions that will be needed to minimize Zika’s effects in the United States should be funded at the requested level of $1.9 billion.
 
The ASM, which represents over 47,000 members in the United States and worldwide, strongly supports Zika funding at a level of $1.9 billion, preferably the full amount requested by the Administration. Over the past year, infections caused by the Zika virus have emerged as a major global health threat. Most US states have already reported travel associated Zika cases and warmer summer months will bring greater mosquito transmission within US borders. As a nation, we are inevitable participants in this latest global health emergency.  We urge Congress to adequately fund the public health efforts that will protect people against Zika infection and its associated medical conditions and costs.
 
This protection includes not only vaccine development, but also studies on virus biology and the human health impacts like birth defects and neurological disorders, development of better prevention and improved diagnostics, and more. Drawing from lessons learned from other emerging infectious diseases, US health officials and biomedical researchers have responded quickly to Zika reports abroad and have already made key contributions to our understanding of this pathogen and its potential impacts. New resources are needed to help build upon existing preparedness efforts, to accelerate vaccine and diagnostics development, and to improve epidemiology and laboratory capacities.
 
Underfunding Zika research and control efforts will have real public health consequences that could be avoided. Federal and state agencies must be able to respond with the best available scientific and public health resources. The Zika virus is not waiting while we decide how to best address this growing threat. 

Thank you for your support of public health and 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.
Chair, ASM Public and Scientific Affairs Board