On Tuesday, a woman infected with the Zika virus gave birth to a girl with microcephaly, a malformed head, in New Jersey. Federal officials say there are more than 300 pregnant women possibly infected with Zika around the country. Yet every time an emergency like this happens, public health officials must go begging bowl in hand to Congress for the funds to deal with it. And as the current squabble between Republicans and President Obama over money for the Zika virus shows, there’s no guarantee of significant or even timely relief.
The obvious answer is to establish a permanent pool of money that federal health authorities can tap into quickly, much like the disaster relief fund that enables the Federal Emergency Management Agency to respond quickly to hurricanes and other natural disasters.
Such a fund would allow agencies like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to mobilize their resources to contain emerging threats like Zika and Ebola before they become large-scale problems. The money would be used for research, for vaccine development and to prevent the spread of the disease in the United States and overseas.
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