(Bloomberg View) — So far, the only mosquitoes in America carrying the Zika virus are confined to one neat square mile north of downtown Miami. And public health officials seem confident that they will be able to keep most of them there.
There is no reason for panic, in other words. The U.S. is unlikely to experience a widespread epidemic of Zika. But there is ample reason for frustration, and Congress needs to ensure that state and federal public health authorities get the funding they need.
More than 1,650 people in the U.S. have been infected with Zika, after traveling to other countries or through sex. The mosquito that carries Zika inhabits a coast-to-coast swath of the southern U.S. So it’s quite possible that local transmission of Zika will happen in other parts of the U.S. as well. The Gulf Coast is especially vulnerable.
Yet Congress has still not allocated a dime toward containing the threat of Zika or developing a vaccine to prevent it.
Both the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which is helping Florida contain its infected mosquitoes, and the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is trying to better understand Zika and help develop vaccines and treatments, have borrowed money from other parts of their budgets to keep working at full speed. But Anthony Fauci, the NIAID director, has warned that his agency is “preciously close” to running out of money.
The NIAID has too little money to prepare for a Phase II vaccine trial that should be scheduled for January.