02.24.16

Murray Urges Timely, Effective Response to Combat Zika, Continues to Stress Importance of Women’s Access to Health Care

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), the top Democrat on the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, delivered opening remarks at a hearing addressing the growing threat of the Zika virus. The alarming spread of the Zika virus continues to pose a serious threat to families—in particular pregnant women and their children. In her remarks, Murray highlighted the need to educate health care providers and families about the virus, as well as improve health care services for low-income women in regions where this virus poses a greater risk. Murray continued to emphasize the importance of prioritizing women’s access to reproductive health care in light of the spreading Zika virus. The Administration’s supplemental funding request is an important first step in coordinating these efforts.

Key excerpts from Senator Murray’s remarks:

 

“I know many of us are hearing from families in our home states who are deeply concerned about the spread of the Zika virus, which can have such tragic consequences—especially for young families. So I’m glad we have the opportunity to speak with experts who are on the frontlines of our response efforts, and discuss ways Congress can best support this critical work. There is still a lot we need to learn about the virus, but one thing that is clear is that we can’t wait to act.”

 

“We need to educate health care providers and families about this virus, and improve health care services for low-income pregnant women in areas where Zika poses a risk. According to the CDC and the Pan American Health Organization, women in many Zika-affected countries face barriers to reproductive health care, as well as high rates of sexual violence. I believe it’s critical that in Zika-affected countries, we do everything we can to ensure women have access to the full range of reproductive health care, including access to family planning services.”

 

“I’m very hopeful that here in Congress, we can put the politics aside and work together to ensure we provide much-needed tools and support. And, with the health and wellbeing of many families at risk, I hope we can do so quickly.”

 

Full text of Senator Murray’s remarks:

 

“Thank you, Chairman Alexander—and thank you to our colleagues for joining us.

 

“Dr. Fauci, Dr. Schuchat, and Dr. Robinson, I appreciate you being here and sharing your expertise.

 

“I know many of us are hearing from families in our home states who are deeply concerned about the spread of the Zika virus, which can have such tragic consequences—especially for young families.

 

“So I’m glad we have the opportunity to speak with experts who are on the frontlines of our response efforts, and discuss ways Congress can best support this critical work.

 

“There is still a lot we need to learn about the virus, but one thing that is clear is that we can’t wait to act.

 

“The scientific consensus at this stage is that four out of five of those who become infected show no symptoms.

 

“For the other twenty percent who do, the most common result is a week of mild flu-like symptoms.

 

“However, in rare instances, there are indications that some people infected with the virus have developed Guillain-Barre syndrome, a potentially life-threatening neurological condition.

 

“There is growing evidence that Zika can lead to microcephaly, a birth defect that usually results in abnormal brain development, with possible serious long-term consequences.

 

“The CDC has also reported that in Brazil, two women miscarried after being infected with Zika, and is exploring whether there may be other potential consequences for pregnant women who become infected.

 

“The same mosquitos that carry the virus in South America can be found in many parts of the United States.

 

“The virus has spread to Puerto Rico, putting pregnant women there at risk, and many are concerned that it will make its way to the mainland when the warm weather returns.

 

“And as of this week, there are cases being reported as far north as my home state of Washington as a result of travel.

 

“Speaking for moms and grandmothers across the country—this is deeply concerning to me.

 

“So, now is the time to prepare for that possibility, and to develop strategies for controlling the mosquitos that harbor the virus.

 

“As we work to fill the gaps in our knowledge about the disease, we also need to expand mosquito control efforts, as well as laboratory and diagnostic capabilities, in states and cities nationwide.

 

“We should work to accelerate research and development of effective lab tests, antiviral drugs, and critically, a vaccine.

 

“And we need to educate health care providers and families about this virus, and improve health care services for low-income pregnant women in areas where Zika poses a risk.

 

“According to the CDC and the Pan American Health Organization, women in many Zika-affected countries face barriers to reproductive health care, as well as high rates of sexual violence.

 

“I believe it’s critical that in Zika-affected countries, we do everything we can to ensure women have access to the full range of reproductive health care, including access to family planning services.

 

“Democrats are going to continue urging bipartisan work to ensure women everywhere have the ability to plan their pregnancies, especially in light of this virus.

 

“The Administration has laid out an aggressive plan to fight the Zika virus and has requested supplemental funding to ensure all the appropriate resources are being put toward protecting families here at home and abroad.

 

“Some of my Republican colleagues have suggested that additional funding isn’t needed to respond to Zika.

 

“They believe the administration should simply shift funding away from Ebola response efforts, which are still ongoing.

 

“I disagree. We need to both finish the job of responding to the Ebola crisis and act to address the growing threat of the Zika virus.

 

“Families’ health and safety should not be a zero sum game.

 

“So I’m very hopeful that here in Congress, we can put the politics aside and work together to ensure we provide much-needed tools and support.

 

“And, with the health and wellbeing of many families at risk, I hope we can do so quickly.

 

“Thank you again to our witnesses for joining us today and sharing your expertise—I look forward to hearing from you.”