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Israel, Bellone seek more funding to combat Zika virus

Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), center, and Suffolk County

Rep. Steve Israel (D-Huntington), center, and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone look at mosquitoes as Israel calls on Congress to provide New York with funding to combat the Zika virus at West Hills County Park in Melville on Monday, May 23, 2016. Credit: Steve Pfost

Rep. Steve Israel and Suffolk County Executive Steve Bellone called Monday for House Republicans to increase an emergency funding package to fight the Zika virus before going on Memorial Day break.

Israel (D-Huntington), holding a jar of mosquito larvae at West Hills County Park in Melville, said the $622 million bill passed by the House to fund research and programs through September was inadequate.

“This is a ticking time bomb,” Israel said. “If we do not get serious about the Zika virus . . . as we get into the summer this is going to terrorize Suffolk County, Long Island and the country.”

Health officials said the disease is not carried by mosquitoes currently found on Long Island. But Israel said additional money is needed for Zika-related research, early detection, and work toward a vaccine by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, he said.

Bellone, standing with county health officials tracking local Zika cases and monitoring and spraying mosquitoes, said, “We have limited resources as it is. To confront an issue like this — a global health crisis — is when we need Congress to step up.”

The Senate passed a $1.1 billion version to fight Zika, which would include money for states to combat the virus. President Barack Obama originally proposed a $1.9 billion package. Republicans have criticized the White House proposal as a request for a “blank check” that could be used for priorities not related to Zika.

Lawmakers in both the House and Senate will now go to conference to negotiate a final funding level before sending the bill to the president.

The Zika virus in pregnant women has been linked to microcephaly, in which the infant is born with a small head due to an underdeveloped brain.


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