For months, members of Congress have been at odds over how much money the United States ought to spend on fighting the Zika virus.
The World Health Organization declared Zika a global emergency back in early February, around the time the Obama Administration asked Congress for $1.9 billion in emergency money to combat the mosquito-borne virus. Republicans balked at that request, and many of them dismissed it as unnecessary. If the White House wanted money to fight Zika, they said, it would have to dip into the funding already set aside to combat ebola.
More than five months passed, and Zika has proved to be worse, in many ways, than health officials feared. A suspected link between the virus and the grave birth defect microcephaly was confirmed. Scientists learned that Zika can cause devastating outcomes, including death, in infected children and adults—not just among fetuses. And it became clear that the virus is spread not just by infected mosquitoes but through sexual contact. Health officials are only just beginning to understand the enormous scope of Zika’s impact, and the threat of an outbreak in the United States remains acute. The first death caused by Zika was recorded in the United States earlier this month.