WASHINGTON – Today, AACC, the March of Dimes, and 66 other major healthcare organizations called for Congress to provide immediate emergency funding to prepare for potential Zika outbreaks in the U.S. by strengthening laboratory testing and rapid response capabilities for the virus. The organizations assert that this is a crucial step toward protecting pregnant women and infants from this devastating infection.
Public health agencies have linked the Zika virus to a disabling birth defect of the brain known as microcephaly in the babies of mothers who contracted the virus while pregnant. In recent months, thousands of cases of microcephaly have been observed among newborns in Zika-affected areas of Latin America, and Zika has also been diagnosed in travelers returning to the U.S. from these regions. As the U.S. enters mosquito season and the range of the virus expands, many of the 4 million infants born here each year could be at risk for permanent neurological damage. In addition to the toll this will take on children and families, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates that the average lifetime cost of caring for each child with microcephaly will likely be millions of dollars per child.
President Obama recently asked Congress for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funding to combat the spread of the virus in the U.S. and abroad. In support of this request, the March of Dimes has written a letter that AACC and numerous other major healthcare organizations have signed urging Congress to provide these resources without delay. This supplemental funding would significantly enhance efforts to reduce Zika transmission in at-risk areas of the U.S. by improving public health professionals’ ability to respond rapidly to Zika cases, determine their source, test for the virus, and monitor its spread. Moreover, emergency funding would assist the CDC and the U.S. Agency for International Development in efforts to contain the virus in Zika-endemic countries and ensure that there are services for affected pregnant women and children.
“AACC asks Congress to provide new emergency funding to augment laboratory testing, epidemiology, and surveillance capacities for Zika in at-risk areas,” said AACC CEO Janet B. Kreizman. “Enhanced testing for the virus is particularly critical to containment efforts, since 75 percent of Zika cases don’t show symptoms. The requested funding is essential to holding back the virus in the U.S., and giving scientists time to develop a vaccine that could help prevent an epidemic of severe birth defects in our country.”
Dedicated to achieving better health through laboratory medicine, AACC brings together more than 50,000 clinical laboratory professionals, physicians, research scientists, and business leaders from around the world focused on clinical chemistry, molecular diagnostics, mass spectrometry, translational medicine, lab management, and other areas of progressing laboratory science. Since 1948, AACC has worked to advance the common interests of the field, providing programs that advance scientific collaboration, knowledge, expertise, and innovation. For more information, visit www.aacc.org.