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Q&A: Zika Virus

June 24, 2016
Senator Chuck Grassley , Dysart Reporter

Q: What is the Zika virus?

A: According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the Zika virus is spread to humans through the bite of an infected mosquito. Common symptoms that may last 2-7 days include fever, rash, joint pain, headache and red eyes. Many people have mild symptoms and may not realize they have been infected. However, the Zika virus is particularly worrisome for pregnantwomen and for couples trying to conceive, as it may cause serious birth defects in a developing baby's brain. The virus was first discovered in 1947 with outbreaks in humans reported in tropical regions of the world starting in 1952. This year the World Health Organization declared the Zika virus a public health emergency as transmission of the disease spread to new areas, including outbreaks in the Americas. The Zika virus is linked to neurological disorders, such as Guillain-Barre syndrome and microcephaly (a small head often due to an under-developed brain). The CDC recommends couples wait at least two months after traveling to Zika-affected areas before trying to conceive, and six months if the male is diagnosed with the virus.

Q: Since there is no vaccine, what preventive steps may people take?

A: So far, more than 600 cases of the Zika virus have been reported in the continental United States, all related to travel to infected areas outside of the United States. So, Iowans traveling to regions of the world with known outbreaks should take precautions, particularly expectant mothers. Fewerthan 10 known cases of Iowans confirmed with the Zika virus have been reported, all related to foreign travel. Don't forget, Iowa has mosquitos transmitting the West Nile virus. During these summer months, it is important to protect your family, especially young children and the elderly, against mosquito bites. Wear clothing to cover as much skin as possible. Use window screens and keep exterior doors closed. Use insect repellant. Campers may consider sleeping under mosquito nets. Iowans who enjoy their beautiful container gardens on their decks and porches can take preventive steps by shutting down mosquito breeding grounds. Cover, empty and clean buckets, pots, watering containers and gutters. Homeowners also may consider insecticide treatment for their yards.

Q: What can Congress do to address the Zika virus?

A: Federal lawmakers agree the Zika virus is a public health threat that needs to be addressed. Lessons learned from the Ebola epidemic are helping public health officials improve data-sharing, diagnostic services and effective communication. The issue before Congress is how to adequately address the problem and how to pay for it. Big spenders always want to throw more money at any problem without even considering that existing funds could be used or that existing expertise, like what's at the CDC, is part of the solution. That's exactly the case here. The federal government has almost $600 million set aside that it never spent for Ebola.After urging from Congress, the administration has started using that money to address the Zika threat. Still, the Senate is taking a careful approach and has agreed on a bipartisan bill that provides an additional $1.1 billion in emergency funding to boost federal resources to fight the mosquito-borne disease. The House of Representatives approved a $622 million package. Now the two bills are being reconciled before the measure is sent to the White House. With the summer mosquito season under way, I'm working to help ensure adequate resources are distributed through the pipeline to protect the public health and that those tax dollars are spent as intended. Many Iowans want to enjoy the summer months in the great outdoors. Whether your work keeps you outdoors or your favorite pastime involves camping, boating, canoeing, biking or enjoyingbackyard barbecues, I'm working to make sure public policies are set to protect the public health and give people peace of mind. For the latest information about the Zika virus and travel advisories, go to



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