Ah, summer. Technically it isn’t here yet, but it’s a couple weeks away, and being that every year of this nacent century has been hotter than each preceding it, what does a date on the calendar even mean anymore?
Summer brings vacations, camp, beaches, baseball, sunscreen, hours trying to stay cool at a pool or in front of an air conditioner, yard work, driving at night with music on and windows down, mosquitoes, and now, compliments of our friend Climate Change, the Zika virus. But don’t worry. Our a Republican Majority House and Senate, promise to treat this urgency with the same level of obstruction and prevarication they have all the others.
Never missing an opportunity to deny our first African American president any legacy, they will do their level best to ensure this virus, never before encountered in the northern hemisphere, is given a chance to spread alongside the fear they and their toadies at Fox-so-called News spin to embolden the pesticide industry and the meme it’s “all Obama’s fault”.
For those of us unfamiliar with it, according to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), Zika virus disease “is spread to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito.” First discovered in the Zika forest of Uganda in 1947, the first human case was reported in 1952. Since then, it has been reported in tropical Africa, Southeast Asia, and Pacific Islands. Most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, or conjunctivitis. Additional symptoms include muscle pain and headache. Since these are symptoms of other ailments as well, and are sometimes ignored, many cases of Zika go unreported. This likely accounts for only fourteen reported cases of Zika before 2007. Last year, though, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) confirmed the first Zika case in Brazil. This February the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika virus a “Public Health Emergency of International Concern”.
Climate scientists have been warning us about mosquito migrations resulting from increasingly warming temperatures for decades, and it appears Zika’s spread may be attributable to it. Well, folks, it’s now made its eventual course here. Children in America are being born with microcephaly -abnormally small heads – due to mothers’ Zika infections during pregnancy. There have been 472 confirmed cases, including U.S. territories like Puerto Rico, which the virus is already overwhelming. So far, 279 pregnant women have tested positive for the virus.
Proactively, President Obama asked Congress for $1.9 billion for mosquito control programs, vaccine research, and health care for low-income pregnant women. Of that amount, the Senate approved 1.1 billion; the House granted only 622 million, and suggested the rest be taken from Ebola funding Congress approved in 2014. The White House argued it is illogical to move a portion of Ebola funds to combat Zika because even though the worst of the Ebola outbreak is over, the public health work is incomplete.
I think we’re all rational enough to understand there is an expected amount of political wrangling that occurs in the halls of Congress. Although frustrating, it is democracy, and as I stated in my May 28th piece “Natural Allies: Stop Criticizing Progressives for Being Progressive”, it’s an effective, albeit imperfect, system. So Congress’s refusal of President Obama’s request is not that alarming until we consider that on May 24, the climate-change denying Republican Congress voted to loosen pesticide regulations, dressing the vote up to appear as if it were concerning Zika. They just simply renamed an old anti-regulation measure called the Reducing Regulatory Burdens Act to the “Zika Vector Control Act.”
This is just another example of how “smaller-government” republicans only favor smaller government when it benefits the profit potential of their corporate masters, in this case the pesticide industry. Since they deny climate change, they might even be so bold as to deny that the use of pesticides can produce an entire mosquito species resistant to those pesticides, like an overuse of antibiotics is attributable to producing new antibiotic-resistent bacteria.
Credo has created a petition urging us to contact our members of Congress and pressure them to fully fund Zika research, which we should do sooner rather than later since it isn’t getting any colder, and Zika is already plaguing our shores.