06.09.16

Sens. Burr, King, Nelson Introduce Bipartisan Bill to Fight Spread of Zika Virus

WASHINGTON, D.C. – With the Zika virus continuing to spread further into the United States, U.S. Senators Angus King (I-Maine), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.), and Richard Burr (R-N.C.) today introduced bipartisan legislation that would help give states and localities the tools they need to fight back. The Strengthening Mosquito Abatement for Safety and Health (SMASH) Act would reauthorize critical public health tools that support states and localities in their mosquito surveillance and control efforts, especially those linked to mosquitos that carry the Zika virus, and improve the nation’s preparedness for Zika and other mosquito-borne threats.

“The Zika virus is an epidemic in waiting that threatens the health and welfare of Americans. We have already seen its terrible impact on women and children in other countries, and as public health experts have repeatedly told us, it’s only a matter of time before it becomes a serious problem here in the United States,” Senator King said. “As we move into summer, we need to take immediate action to fight back against the spread of the virus – and states and localities are where the battle can most effectively be fought. After all, Maine has been battling insect-borne diseases like Lyme for decades. So by giving states the tools they need, we can help control the spread of mosquitos and their viruses, and better protect people across the country.”

“Until we find a cure, the best way to curb the spread of this virus is to eliminate the insects known to carry it,” Senator Nelson said. “As we head into these warmer summer months, Florida's mosquito population is going to rise, and we need to make sure local mosquito-control units have the resources they need to protect their communities.”

“Summer is here and so are the mosquitos that can spread the Zika virus,” said Senator Burr. “We must take the fight to defeat Zika to its source—the mosquitos who spread it. The SMASH Act reauthorizes public health programs that can help communities in North Carolina and across America find and control mosquitos that spread Zika and other serious diseases.  I am committed to protecting North Carolinians from Zika and the SMASH Act will help us be better prepared for this and the future threats we may face.”

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 U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), which recently announced that more than 1,700 cases of the virus have been reported in the U.S. and its territories, has linked the Zika virus to serious health condition, including birth defects in infants such as microcephaly as well as neurological disorders.

Despite the very real and imminent threat posed by Zika, the United States remains woefully unprepared to prevent and address the spread of the virus. To help change that, the SMASH Act takes the following three immediate steps to combat the threat of Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases:

  • Strengthens our ability to respond to Zika by reauthorizing and improving mosquito control: The legislation reauthorizes and makes targeted improvements to the lapsed Mosquito Abatement Safety and Health (MASH) Act, which was enacted in 2003 in response to the West Nile virus. It also authorizes increased support for state and local mosquito control work – efforts that are critical for controlling and reducing the mosquitos that spread infectious diseases. Under the bill, up to $130 million in grants will be authorized each year in addition to matching funds to state and local governments.
  • Improves public health preparedness through laboratory research: The legislation 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.
  • 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.

The legislation is endorsed by the National Pest Management Association, the American Mosquito Control Association, and the Entomological Society of America.

To read the complete text of the legislation, click HERE.