Team Obama’s plans to fight Zika are going to make it worse
Federal officials are warning that mosquitoes carrying the Zika virus will start biting and infecting US residents in the next month. Key trouble spots are southern Florida, Louisiana, Texas and southern California, but the risk could extend farther north.
The virus inflicts horrific brain damage on unborn children as well as neurological disorders in adults. The Obama administration’s bungled response heightens the danger.
Americans are being told to “drain, dress and deet” — drain water lingering in their yards, wear long pants and sleeves and use bug repellent. In short, avoid mosquito bites. Imagine the health of your unborn child depending on that.
That makes as much sense as “duck and cover” did in the 1950s in the event of a nuclear attack.
Today a pregnant woman’s safety hinges on how well her local government controls mosquitoes. The differences are alarming: Fort Myers, Fla., has a $24 million budget and 27 planes for mosquito control. Cash-strapped San Antonio has only two spraying trucks.
Most health departments lack equipment to detect Zika and combat mosquito invasions. Peter Hotez, dean of tropical medicine at Houston’s Baylor Medical College, fears the epidemic’s extent won’t be known “until babies start showing up in delivery suites with microcephaly.”
Also in Houston, Legacy Community Health is caring for a pregnant Zika patient, who recently arrived from El Salvador. One of over 150 pregnant women in the United States now testing positive for Zika. For each baby born with microcephaly, the lifetime cost of care could top $10 million.
President Obama pins blame on Republicans for resisting his emergency Zika spending request. Baloney. Obama’s request earmarks over half a billion dollars for Zika programs in other nations, while shortchanging deteriorating public-health facilities here at home.
Obama is gung-ho to pay for mosquito control in South America, but not here. Just like his Ebola boondoggle, which allocated more for public-health infrastructure in Africa than for US hospitals.
Defending his overseas largesse, Obama says Zika is not something “you can build a wall to prevent” and “mosquitoes can’t go through customs.”
Don’t be fooled.
Mosquitoes fly about 400 yards, max, not all the way from Brazil. Mosquitoes that can carry Zika already live in at least 26 states, ready to reappear with warm weather.
If the president is serious about fighting Zika instead of Republicans, he can dip into ObamaCare’s $2 billion a year public-health slush fund. Right now a lot of that money pays for nanny-state follies like videos showing how to exercise at your desk and (ineffective) healthy eating programs.
Tragically, Obama’s Food and Drug Administration is delaying the release of genetically modified mosquitoes to kill Zika-carrying bugs. Pandering to eco-radicals. Even though the World Health Organization endorses this new technology, which can wipe out 90 percent of Zika mosquitoes in months.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, repeatedly failed to act. The agency was warned in 2014 by the Council of State and Territorial Epidemiologists that local health departments were unprepared for mosquitoes. A 2015 report, “Before the Swarm,” repeated the alarm.
Even when WHO warned this January that Zika was coming, the CDC waited until April 1 to convene a summit on what localities should do, and repeatedly insisted that the CDC doesn’t get “involved in local or state level mosquito control programs.” All the while, the CDC has over 1,700 staff in 60 foreign countries to “improve health globally.”
“You can’t rob Peter to pay Paul,” is how CDC Director Thomas Frieden dismisses suggestions to scale back international spending to meet the Zika threat here.
What? Tell that to a mother who gives birth to a brain-damaged baby. She’ll have Obama’s misguided globalism to thank for her heartache. Time to make American safety the top priority.
Betsy McCaughey is the chairman of the Committee to Reduce Infection Deaths. www.hospitalinfection.org