WASHINGTON – Today, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee unanimously advanced the Strengthening Mosquito Abatement for Safety and Health (SMASH) Act sponsored by Senators Angus King (I-ME), Richard Burr (R-NC), Bill Nelson (D-FL), and Marco Rubio (R-FL). The SMASH Act would reauthorize funding for public health tools that support communities in their mosquito surveillance and control efforts, especially those linked to the mosquitos that carry the Zika virus.
“I am pleased the HELP Committee has advanced this legislation, especially with warmer weather on the way, and the mosquitos that come with it,” said HELP Committee member Senator Burr. “The SMASH Act will give communities the support they need to fight the mosquitos that spread the Zika virus. This bill will help fund programs that are critical for identifying, controlling, and reducing mosquitos that spread infectious diseases.”
The SMASH Act (S. 849) would reauthorize mosquito-control programs that fight the mosquitos that transmit the Zika virus. Zika is a mosquito-borne infectious disease that is primarily transmitted to humans by the female yellow fever (A. aegypti) and Asian tiger (A. albopictus) mosquitos. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have linked the Zika virus to serious health conditions—including birth defects in infants (such as microcephaly) as well as neurological disorders. This bipartisan bill focuses on strengthening mosquito control because these programs play a critical role in protecting Americans from the threat of Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases. By reauthorizing and strengthening these programs, we will improve our nation’s preparedness for Zika and other vector-borne threats. The SMASH Act has three key elements:
1. Strengthen our ability to respond to Zika by reauthorizing and improving mosquito control
- Reauthorizes and makes targeted improvements to the lapsed Mosquito Abatement Safety and Health (MASH) Act, which was enacted in response to the West Nile virus.
2. Underscore the importance of public health preparedness through laboratory capacity
- Reauthorizes the epidemiology-laboratory capacity grants under the Public Health Service Act, which support state and local health departments in surveillance for, and response to, infectious diseases, including Zika. Laboratory capacity plays a pivotal role in preparation for and response to public health threats, including serious ones like Zika.
3. Inform how we can refine and improve mosquito control
- Requires timely study, report, and recommendations by the Government Accountability Office regarding existing mosquito and other vector-borne surveillance and control programs. This analysis will help Congress to identify opportunities to strengthen our public health preparedness programs in partnerships with states and local communities. Ultimately, such analysis will better protect Americans from emerging mosquito-borne infectious diseases. Applying the lessons learned from responses to public health threats is critical for continuing to optimize our nation’s medical and public health preparedness and response.
To read the complete text of the bill, click HERE.