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Dear Leader McConnell and Chairman Cochran:

Today, we write to urge that you immediately begin work to act on the public
health crisis posed by the Zika virus. The Administration has requested $1.9
billion in emergency supplemental funding to address the Zika virus
epidemic and we urge you to mark-up this request in the Appropriations
Committee as soon as possible.
As you know, the Administration announced last Wednesday that it would
transfer $510 million from the remaining Ebola funds to support the response
to the Zika outbreak. Although this was necessary in the face of
Congressional inaction and the growing and rapidly changing public health
threat posed by Zika, it would be shortsighted and dangerous for Congress
not to act quickly to give the Administration the resources it needs to fully
fight the Zika virus and protect Americans. The Zika threat requires a much
broader, more comprehensive response and we should not force our public
health officials to choose between funding Ebola or Zika efforts, especially at
a time when there have been 13 new Ebola cases in West Africa in the past
month.
Beyond addressing the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, the supplemental
funding was also meant to strengthen the overall public health preparedness
and response systems in the U.S. and abroad, including through increased
Public Health Emergency Preparedness (PHEP) funding to states. But now,
public health departments in our home states are losing up to 9% of their
PHEP funds as part of the Administrations decision to reprogram Ebola
response funds. In other words, Congressional inaction on the Zika request
has forced the Administration to shift resources intended to fight future
emergencies away from states. We gain nothing by being so shortsighted.
In the past week, the agencies leading the Zika response have continued to
sound the alarm about this virus. Researchers have confirmed the link
between Zika infection in pregnancy and severe birth defects like
microcephaly, and is continuing to investigate the link with autoimmune
disorders, including Guillain-Barre Syndrome andacute disseminated
encephalomyelitis, which causes swelling of the brain and spinal cord. The
virus is a particular threat for women in impacted regions where there is little
or no access to contraception, family planning and reproductive health care,
and women at home and abroad lack information about the disease.
While we do not yet know how far north the mosquitoes that transmit this
virus can travel, nor the extent of the health complications that people
infected with this virus face, we do know how to prevent its spread. As we
have stated before, we must work to improve vector control, improve

womens access to contraceptives and family planning, and accelerate the


development of treatments including a vaccine. We must protect pregnant
women and children from this devastating disease.
For more than two months, Congress has failed to respond to the
Administrations Zika request. But more importantly, Congress has failed to
address a disease that has infected more than 800 Americans in 40 states,
Washington, D.C., and 3 U.S. territories, including 89 pregnant women. We
cannot delay approving critical resources to assist in the Zika response. We
must act now to pass the Presidents request for supplemental funding.
Sincerely,
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