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As Zika Crisis Grows, Committee Seeks Urgent Briefings From Government Health Experts

Feb 1, 2016
Press Release
Committee Leaders Reach Out to CDC, NIH, and HHS As World Health Organization Declares Zika Virus Public Health Emergency

WASHINGTON, DC – Following the World Health Organization’s declaration that the Zika virus, which is transmitted by mosquitos and may cause birth defects, is a public health emergency, bipartisan House Energy and Commerce Committee leaders today reached out to U.S. government health experts. The leaders requested briefings in the immediate future from Dr. Thomas Frieden, Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Dr. Nicole Lurie, Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), and Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases at the National Institutes of Health (NIH).

In addition to requesting the briefings, the leaders posed a number of questions to the three agencies about the U.S. public health response to the growing Zika crisis. The committee anticipates holding a hearing in the coming weeks.

In the letters to the three agencies, the bipartisan leaders write, “The Zika virus is an emerging public health threat linked to a rise in babies born with microcephaly, a very serious condition characterized by a small head and brain. … With Zika now circulating in 24 countries and territories in the Caribbean and Central and South America, there is increased concern that the virus could reach the continental U.S. According to a new study in the journal The Lancet, the Zika virus has the potential to spread across warmer and wetter parts of the Western hemisphere as mosquitoes pick up the virus from infected travelers and then spread the virus to other people. Infectious disease models estimate as many as 200 million people in the U.S. live in areas that might be conducive to the spread of Zika during summer months.”

The committee leaders are seeking an update on what is known about the virus and its impact on pregnant women, what questions remain unanswered, what actions are being taken to counteract the threat of Zika, and if these actions are adequate and timely.

The letters were signed by full committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI), Ranking Member Frank Pallone, Jr. (D-NJ), Health Subcommittee Chairman Joseph Pitts (R-PA), Health Subcommittee Ranking Member Gene Green (D-TX), Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Chairman Tim Murphy (R-PA), and Oversight and Investigations Subcommittee Ranking Member Diana DeGette (D-CO).

Read the letter to CDC HERE.

Read the letter to HHS HERE.

Read the letter to NIH HERE.