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Local organization joining push for emergency funding to fight Zika virus

There is a nationwide push for Congress to approve emergency funding to fight the Zika virus before the Capitol shuts down for seven weeks this summer.

Getting the emergency funding to research Zika is a priority for the March of Dimes, which promotes the health of pregnant women and unborn babies.

“We’re adamant about it. We’re asking for help,” said Becky Horner, the executive director of market development for the March of Dimes in El Paso and New Mexico. “If local communities can contact their congressional representatives and give that push from the local side where it’s going to be affecting us here, I think that’s a really important piece to the advocacy push.”

Horner said the organization has been sending out a flurry of emails with information to prevent contracting Zika, and to ask for support of its petition that urges Congress to act.

The March of Dimes also signed a letter alongside more than 50 national health-related associations that was just sent Wednesday to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid, House Speaker Paul Ryan and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The letter read, “Time has run out. We implore Congress to send a bipartisan Zika emergency spending bill to the President by the end of this week
to combat the terrible threat this virus poses to pregnant women and their families.”

Congress recesses for the summer on Friday.

A much-needed bill to battle the Zika virus faces a Democratic filibuster on Thursday over a GOP provision that would block Planned Parenthood from receiving anti-Zika funding.

Horner told ABC-7 that she is disappointed that Congress hasn’t been able to agree on how to fund the fight against Zika.

“Without that funding, it will stymie our local prevention efforts and our vector control. The local and tribal communities just don’t have the funding to be able to do that,” Horner said. “We need the U.S. government to step up and provide that emergency funding because it is a very serious virus that can cause lifelong problems and birth defects.”

The Zika virus, mainly transmitted through mosquitoes, is linked to microcephaly, a congenital condition associated with incomplete brain development that can cause small head size. Zika infection during pregnancy causes microcephaly and other brain problems.

State health officials reported on Thursday the first Texas case of a baby born with microcephaly linked to the Zika virus. Department of State Health Services Commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt says lab tests confirm the baby recently born in Harris County has the infection.

The letter sent to Congress said that more than 3,600 Americans have been diagnosed with Zika — more than 1,100 of those occurrences in the states.

Visit the March of Dimes website and sign the petition here.

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