The US just took a critical step to preventing Zika outbreaks

ZikaGetty ImagesHealth workers walk while fumigating in an attempt to eradicate the mosquito which transmits the Zika virus on January 28, 2016 in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil

The Centres for Disease Control and Prevention just released $85 million to states and territories to use to try and prevent Zika outbreaks. 

The amount is just to get things started, and will first go to 53 states, cities, and territories that are at risk of Zika outbreaks, the CDC said in a press release on Friday. The money is mostly for planning purposes so they can come up with a prevention strategy. The funds will be given out this summer and will be available through July 2017.

The Zika virus, which is transmitted mainly via mosquitoes, has been identified in the US but only in people who’ve recently travelled to Zika hot spots and in Puerto Rico. Once infected with Zika, only about 20% of people ever show symptoms, which most commonly include fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. There is no vaccine or treatment available for the virus. 

One reason Zika is troubling is because it is a cause of birth defects including microcephaly (a condition where the baby’s head is abnormally small) in babies whose mothers have had Zika. The virus also been linked to a neurological condition called Guillain-Barré Syndrome.

“These funds will allow states and territories to continue implementation of their Zika preparedness plans, but are not enough to support a comprehensive Zika response and can only temporarily address what is needed,” Stephen C. Redd, M.D., the director of the CDC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response, said in a release.

More funding is in the works, though. On Thursday, the Senate announced that it had come up with a bipartisan bill that would supply $1.1 billion in emergency funding to combat Zika. That, and two other options — one giving $1.9 billion and one giving the $1.1 billion but not as emergency funding — are expected to go up for a vote next week.

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