Durbin: Republican Inaction on Zika Virus Threatens Public Health Preparedness & Response in Illinois

[WASHINGTON, D.C.] – As a result of Congressional Republicans’ refusal to fund emergency actions combatting the spread of the Zika virus, Illinois and other states are losing access to critical public health resources, U.S. Senator Dick Durbin (D-IL) said today. To prevent additional resources from being diverted away from states like Illinois, Durbin called for the immediate full funding of President Obama’s request for emergency appropriations to fight the Zika virus.


“Illinois should not have to lose precious funding to deal with public health threats because Republican Congressional leaders have refused to pass the necessary additional funding to deal with Zika,” Durbin said.


Although the Obama Administration requested emergency supplemental funding over two months ago to fight the spread of the Zika virus, Republicans in Congress have refused to act.


In the absence of Congressional action to provide additional funding, the Administration has been forced to divert critical public health resources away from states like Illinois in order to deal with the Zika crisis. This loss of resources threatens the states’ ability to address other public health emergencies, like the recent outbreak of Elizabethkingia in Illinois.


“Let me talk about why diverting $2 million from my state of Illinois to southern states for Zika is a challenge. The Illinois Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention last week confirmed ten cases of a bacterial infection known as Elizabethkingia,” Durbin said. “It’s resulted in six deaths in my state. So in the middle of this outbreak, Illinois is losing 8 percent in core funding for public health contingencies because of the failure of Republican leaders in Congress to pass President Obama's emergency Zika supplemental funding request.”


Video of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor are available here.


Audio of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available here.


Footage of Durbin’s remarks on the Senate floor is available for TV Stations using FTP in high definition here and in standard definition here.


Durbin has been calling for additional resources to address the spread of the Zika virus since February.


For more than two months, Congressional Republicans have failed to respond to the Administration’s emergency funding request, even though more than 800 Americans have already been infected by the virus. Earlier this month, Durbin led a coalition of forty-two Senators in sending a new letter to Senate Republican leaders calling for immediate passage of President Obama’s emergency supplemental funding request for prevention and treatment of the Zika virus outbreak. The letter called on the Senate Appropriations committee to mark-up the President’s emergency funding request as soon as possible to ensure swift passage by the full Senate and House.


Last week, Durbin also joined Senators Nelson, Reid, and Schumer in introducing legislation to fund the Administration’s $1.9 billion request to combat the Zika virus. The funding would be used to improve state vector control, surveillance, lab capacity and outbreak response, accelerate efforts to develop a vaccine, and expand education and access to women’s health planning services.