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Senate Approves $1.1B Toward Fighting Zika Virus

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.

With Zika cases climbing to 921 in Florida, the U.S. Senate on Wednesday advanced a federal spending bill that includes $1.1 billion in funding to combat the mosquito-borne disease.

U.S. Sen. Marco Rubio, who along with fellow Florida Sen. Bill Nelson supported the bill, said the measure contains $15 million to directly help states, like Florida, with cases of locally transmitted Zika and has $60 million that could help Puerto Rico.

"This anti-Zika package rightfully prioritizes Americans in Florida and Puerto Rico, and I'm encouraged my calls for action have been answered and that real assistance from the federal government is finally on its way," Rubio said.

Nelson called the Senate vote "a small victory" in the effort to block the disease, which can cause severe birth defects.

"The emergency spending approved today will help increase local mosquito-control efforts to contain the spread of the virus and allow federal researchers to continue their search for a vaccine," Nelson said. The emergency spending still needed approval from the House of Representatives.

On Wednesday, the Florida Department of Health announced six new locally transmitted Zika cases in the state, including four in Miami-Dade County and one each involving residents of Broward and Palm Beach counties. That brought Florida's total to 115 cases in which the disease was transmitted locally by mosquitoes. Florida also had eight new travel-related Zika cases, for a total of 700 travel-related cases.