MILLWOOD, Va., Feb. 23, 2016 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- The head of the global health NGO, Project HOPE, is calling on Congress to act swiftly to fulfill President Barack Obama's $1.9 billion funding request to stem the spread of the Zika virus.
Tom Kenyon, M.D., M.P.H., says lawmakers need to move quickly to protect unborn American babies from the heartrending condition known as microcephaly, which often leads to other complications including mental retardation.
"Time is not on anyone's side here. Yes, we need better science around what is going on with the Zika virus, but in the meantime millions of pregnant women and unborn fetuses are at risk and need support now to avert a further disaster," said Dr. Kenyon, whose previous post was Director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Center for Global Health.
Thousands of cases of microcephaly have already been identified. Zika transmission now spans 26 countries and US territories in the Western Hemisphere, and with the mosquito vector already in America, it is feared the conditions are ripe for the U.S. mainland to be increasingly affected by Zika as spring and summer approaches.
President Obama issued the request for $1.9 billion on Monday to tackle the Zika virus and prevent the spread of the disease in the U.S. Some lawmakers suggested that the quickest way of funding the President's request would be to divert resources currently being used to contain Ebola in West Africa.
Such a move, says Dr. Kenyon, would be a disaster.
"Diverting resources from funding for Ebola makes little sense — in fact it would be like diverting the fire hose from a house fire that is smoldering, to one that is in flames. It only takes a puff of wind for the original conflagration to ignite again," he said.
Dr. Kenyon said that investing in an effort to combat Zika now would save money down the line and ensure that a stronger public health system is prepared to react in the future when other outbreaks of disease threaten America's shores.
Project HOPE engages in Zika prevention activities in accordance with public health guidelines. It supports several women's and children's health clinics in the Dominican Republic, where Zika training and community-based awareness programs have already been implemented. The NGO continues to monitor the situation and work toward coordinated Zika prevention efforts.
About Project HOPE
Founded in 1958, Project HOPE (Health Opportunities for People Everywhere) is dedicated to providing lasting solutions to health problems with the mission of helping people to help themselves. Identifiable to many by the SS HOPE, the world's first peacetime hospital ship, Project HOPE publishes the journal Health Affairs, provides medical training and health education, and conducts humanitarian assistance programs in more than 35 countries. Visit our website projecthope.org and follow us on Twitter @projecthopeorg
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