The Obama Administration announced that it will redirect $589 million in preparation to fight the Zika virus, the dreaded virus that has been linked to microcephaly and other complications in Latin American and the Caribbean.
The move is after the Congress hasn't acted on the White House's request for emergency funding to prepare in case the mosquito-borne disease emerges in the United States.
Officials from the Office of Management and Budget, the Department of Health Human Services and the State Department said they would move the budget that was originally intended to protect against Ebola virus in 2014.
According to Sylvia Mathews Burwell, secretary of the Department of Health and Human Sciences, aside from the funds moved from the Ebola outbreak budget, another $79 million would also be extracted from other accounts such as the money allocated to the strategic national stockpile of vaccines and other emergency resources.
One year after the Ebola virus ravaged West Africa and some parts of the globe, the Zika virus emerged in the Americas. Though the disease was deemed non-fatal because most patients recover completely, the virus has been linked to microcephaly among developing babies. This congenital disease that causes smaller heads than usual and brain defect surged in numbers in Brazil.
The urgency of getting funds from the Ebola account emerged because of the upcoming summer weather that can harbor increasing mosquito populations and broader spread of the virus.
"I told the White House I'd be supportive of a supplemental if they could show me where the money goes and what it could do," said Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., chairman of the Senate subcommittee responsible for foreign aid.
There are 672 confirmed cases of Zika virus infections in the United States, including 64 pregnant women. Health officials confirmed one case of Zika-related microcephaly in Hawaii.
Republicans on the House of Representatives Appropriations Committee said they would monitor the changing needs that will result from this unpredictable crisis. This is to make sure funds are always available in case the need arises.
"Republicans are going to look back on this time that they've had to act on the Zika virus and deeply regret it," said White House spokesman Josh Earnest.
Photo: John Tann | Flickr