Top officials warned the Senate that the threat of the Zika virus seems to be growing more severe by the day at a hearing this past Wednesday. The officials brought to light 13 new cases of the infection in Florida alone, bringing the total number there to 282 according to Senator Marco Rubio, highlighting just how quickly the disease is able to spread. Nationwide, the Senator told those assembled that the numbers were far larger, with the virus affecting 1,133 people in 45 out of the 50 states.

“The growing threat of the Zika virus as a full blown public health crisis in the United States is a clear call to action” Rubio told the Senate Foreign Affairs subcommittee that deals exclusively with the Western Hemisphere, which has been grappling to pass legislation on the subject.

The road, however, has been blocked numerous times thanks to party politics, but this new meeting hopes to open the way towards a more conclusive policy to combat the disease.

The Director of the CDC

Rubio brought with him Tom Frieden, the director of the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), who lambasted the Senate for their inaction regarding the subject. “This is no way to fight epidemics” the director told the politicians assembled, and said that the meager funding that has been set aside for the issue is nowhere near enough to actually make an impact. “We have made difficult decisions and redirected resources from other important public health activities to support our most critical needs” Frieden tesitified, but “these redirected funds…are not enough to support a comprehensive Zika response, and they divert funding from other critically important public health activities.” In February, President Obama proposed a far more sweeping legislation, one that would set aside $1.9 billion to help fight and prevent the virus, but House and Senate majority Republicans blocked the bill.

Travel advisory

The disease is so bad in many areas of the Western Hemisphere that the CDC has recommended pregnant women avoid travel to Brazil to watch the 2016 Summer Olympics, and athletes and spectators alike have been given a number of safety precautions that they will need to abide by to prevent catching and spreading the virus.

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Judith Garber, the acting assistant secretary of state for scientific affairs warned the Senate that already, 40 countries and territories on this side of the world have seen cases of the disease, and Brazil alone has reported of 100,000 instances, along with 5,000 cases of infants born with microcephaly as a result of the illness.

She went on to state that “it is only a matter of time before we experience local transmission in the United States and Hawaii.” The vast majority of instances that have occurred in the United States already are primarily the result of individuals travelling to the country from abroad. The first case of Zika-related microcephaly in Florida, Rubio pointed out, was from a mother who recently arrived from Haiti. This does not mean, however, that the threat of Zika expanding locally within the country is removed, however.