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Funding For State-Level Zika Tracking May End Soon

Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Money that has helped states with Zika tracking and education may end by this summer, putting at risk efforts to better understand the mostly mosquito-borne virus and the devastating birth defects associated with it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told state health officials in a meeting last month that Zika funding is running out and that additional support should not be expected, according to a news report. An agency spokeswoman declined to confirm the report, saying in an email that the CDC does not yet have a budget for the next fiscal year and cannot speculate on how funding for Zika might be affected.

Last year, Congress provided $1.1 billion to the CDC for Zika response and preparedness that was mostly passed on to local and state public health departments.

The money has been distributed to states through different grants for different purposes.

According to the CDC, 58 babies in the U.S. were born with birth defects related to Zika as of April 11. Those defects include microcephaly, a condition in which a baby’s head and brain are smaller than normal, causing developmental delays and other problems.

The potential end of federal funds may affect states’ ability to track Zika-related birth defects, said Cindy Pellegrini, the senior vice president of public policy and government affairs at the March of Dimes.

Before Zika emerged, microcephaly was so rare that most states did not track it. If states can no longer afford to do so, it will be difficult for health officials to know for certain which cases of birth defects were triggered by Zika, Pellegrini said.

The CDC and the March of Dimes recently launched Zika Care Connect, a website in which the public can search for providers who are qualified and willing to treat women and children with Zika. The site currently only covers 10 states, including Florida.