News Releases

Murray: “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.”

 

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Ranking Member on the Labor, Health, and Human Services Appropriations Subcommittee, delivered remarks at a hearing on the Zika virus and other emerging health threats, urging bipartisan support for emergency funding to assist states and local communities in responding to the Zika virus. Senator Murray highlighted key priorities in the Administration’s emergency funding proposal, and noted the importance of ensuring women in Zika-affected countries have access to contraception and family planning as part of response efforts.  Also attending the hearing were Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases and Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

 

“Time is of the essence, so I look forward to discussing the Administration’s proposal, and hope we’ll be able work in a bipartisan manner to move legislation in the coming weeks,” said Senator Murray. “Because when it comes to protecting our families from potentially serious threats like this—there shouldn’t be any partisanship or politics.”

 

Key excerpts of Senator Murray’s remarks as prepared for delivery:

 

“I’m sure we’re all hearing from families in our home states who are concerned about this virus’s impacts. So I’m glad we have the opportunity today to continue gathering the facts and discussing ways to fight the Zika virus at home and abroad. I’m very hopeful we can put politics aside and work across the aisle to protect families and communities, and ensure we are putting all the needed tools and resources into this effort.”

 

“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. The scientific consensus at this stage is that four out of five of those who become infected show no symptoms. For the other twenty percent who do, the most common result is a week of mild flu-like symptoms.”

 

“Evidence now indicates that 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. Speaking for moms and grandmothers across the country—that 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. To make that possible, the Administration has requested emergency funding to assist States and local communities with these efforts, including resources to—expand mosquito control efforts, as well as laboratory and diagnostic capabilities.”

 

“I’m glad this is a concern that CDC is focused on answering. While a mosquito bite is the most likely way to contract Zika, as the news from Dallas last week illustrated, we also need to understand other means of transmission, and whether there are any risks to the nation’s blood supply. Time is of the essence, so I look forward to discussing the Administration’s proposal, and hope we’ll be able work in a bipartisan manner to move legislation in the coming weeks. Because when it comes to protecting our families from potentially serious threats like this—there shouldn’t be any partisanship or politics.”

 

Senator Murray’s full remarks as prepared for delivery:

 

“Thank you, Chairman Blunt.  Dr. Fauci and Dr. Frieden, thank you for joining us this morning to discuss the Zika virus and other emerging health threats. I’m sure we’re all hearing from families in our home states who are concerned about this virus’s impacts.

 

“So I’m glad we have the opportunity today to continue gathering the facts and discussing ways to fight the Zika virus at home and abroad. I’m very hopeful we can put politics aside and work across the aisle to protect families and communities, and ensure we are putting all the needed tools and resources into this effort.

 

“Our understanding of the Zika virus, and the public health community’s response, is rapidly evolving. Last week, the World Health Organization declared Zika-linked birth defects a global health emergency. A day later, health officials in Dallas confirmed the first known case of sexual transmission of the disease in the current outbreak. A virus that most people had never heard of until recently has quickly spread across the Americas, potentially threatening expectant mothers and their newborns wherever it develops. 

 

“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. The scientific consensus at this stage is that four out of five of those who become infected show no symptoms. For the other twenty 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. And, there is growing evidence that Zika can lead to microcephaly (MICRO-SEF-A-LEE), a birth defect that usually results in abnormal brain development, with serious long-term consequences.

 

“In the past year, Brazil has experienced a 25-fold increase in the number of infants born with microcephaly, and scientists believe Zika is the reason. The same mosquitos that carry the virus in South America can be found in many parts of the United States, including right outside our doors here on Capitol Hill.

 

“Evidence now indicates that 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. Speaking for moms and grandmothers across the country—that 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. To make that possible, the Administration has requested emergency funding to assist States and local communities with these efforts, including resources to—expand mosquito control efforts, as well as laboratory and diagnostic capabilities.

 

“Given the limitations of existing diagnostics and treatments, the request would provide additional funding to accelerate research and development of—effective lab tests, antiviral drugs, and of particular importance, a vaccine.

 

“The request would also help fill in the gaps in our knowledge about the disease. Additionally, the Administration’s proposal would also include funding to educate health care providers, pregnant women and their partners about this virus, and would improve health services for low-income pregnant women in areas where Zika poses a risk.

 

“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. And that’s something I’m going to continue to be focused on. We know other viruses that can cause pregnancy complications are often associated with a broad spectrum of possible conditions, so there may be other consequences for pregnant women who become infected.

 

“I’m glad this is a concern that CDC is focused on answering. While a mosquito bite is the most likely way to contract Zika, as the news from Dallas last week illustrated, we also need to understand other means of transmission, and whether there are any risks to the nation’s blood supply.

 

“Time is of the essence, so I look forward to discussing the Administration’s proposal, and hope we’ll be able work in a bipartisan manner to move legislation in the coming weeks. Because when it comes to protecting our families from potentially serious threats like this—there shouldn’t be any partisanship or politics.

 

“We should be able to come together to get this done, and I am hopeful we will be able to.”