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Vern Buchanan praises inclusion of $1.1B for Zika in government funding bill

U.S. Rep. Vern Buchanan praised the inclusion of $1.1 billion to combat the Zika virus in a must-pass government funding bill expected to be approved by Congress this week.

“Florida urgently needs additional money to help fight Zika and protect our citizens,” the Sarasota Republican said in a statement Tuesday. “Funding should have been approved months ago but Washington was too busy engaged in ugly politics at the expense of public health.”

Under the agreement, Buchanan said $933 million will go to the Department of Health and Human Services, including $394 million to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) for mosquito control and surveillance. Also included is $397 million for the National Institutes of Health for vaccine and diagnostic development.

“Our nation’s disease-fighters need this money to contain the virus and develop a vaccine,” the congressman said.

While final details of the funding bill are still being negotiated, there is a consensus on Zika funding provisions, according to congressional leaders.

As of Sept. 21, there were 3,358 confirmed cases of the virus in the U.S. Nationwide, 749 pregnant women are infected with Zika, according to the CDC.

Florida is ground zero for the Zika virus, Buchanan pointed out, and the sole state in the nation to have confirmed mosquito-to-human transmission of the disease. In all, 894 people have contracted the disease across the state, including 90 pregnant women.

Earlier this month, top government health officials warned Congress that money to combat Zika will run out by the end of September. “The cupboard is bare,” CDC Director Tom Frieden said. “Basically, we are out of money and we need Congress to act.”

Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, told The Washington Post last week the federal government was forced to take money from cancer research to pay for development of a Zika vaccine.

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