With more and more locally transmitted Zika cases in Florida, a bipartisan group of state House lawmakers are joining together to ask for federal help to combat the mosquito-borne disease.
If there are enough votes in November, a pilot project in the Keys to genetically engineer mosquitoes to help reduce Zika transmissions could go forward. But, Palm Harbor Republican Representative Chris Sprowls says not every area in the state has access to the technology offered by Oxitec. So, as part of the incoming House leadership, he along with other lawmakers are sending a letter to federal officials, asking for approval.
“In other parts of the state that actually have non-travel related Zika cases, like Miami, now Pinellas County, should those counties want to use that technology to combat a spread in their community, they’re currently prohibited by law from doing so,” said Sprowls. “So, what the Speaker [Designate Richard Corcoran] and the Democratic Leader [Designate Janet Cruz] are asking the federal government is ‘we should not be hamstrung by that federal statute, when this could be a state of emergency here in Florida.’”
Florida now has more than 680 cases of the Zika virus—that can cause severe birth defects. In addition to locally transmitted cases, most are considered travel-related and also involve close to 80 pregnant women.
Meanwhile, Congress is expected to come back from a seven-week recess after Labor Day. The U.S. Senate and House had failed to agree on a Zika prevention funding measure, before leaving. Sprowls says he’s still disappointed, but will continue to work toward other solutions with other state lawmakers.
“I think we’ve all been clear that the way that we think the way that Washington has handled this, it has not been appropriate on all levels of government,” he added. “You know, we all want there to be a Zika funding measure, so we have the ability to do the job. We also want to make sure that when we have the ability to do the job, that we’re not missing a vital tool that could help us combat the disease.”
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