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Schumer in Syracuse visit calls for emergency federal funding for anti-Zika vaccine

(Eric Reinhardt / BJNN file photo)

SYRACUSE, N.Y. — U.S. Senator Charles Schumer (D–N.Y.) wants Congress to approve $1.9 billion in emergency funding to help develop an anti-Zika vaccine.

Schumer made his call during a visit to SUNY Upstate Medical University on Wednesday.

His appearance follows Oneida County’s announcement that one of its residents has the Zika virus, Schumer’s office said. NewsChannel 9 (WSYR-TV) is also reporting that Onondaga County has confirmed two cases on Zika virus as well.

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Broadcast reports on both cases cite public health officials indicating neither case poses a threat to the public.

Schumer contends that the emergency funding could help SUNY Upstate’s efforts to “treat, prevent, and understand” the Zika virus, according to the news release.

Upstate New York hospitals, medical providers, and public-health systems need “immediate” access to money to fight the spread of the virus and treat those who have been infected, the Senator said.

Medical professionals suspect the Zika virus causes micro-encephalitis in babies, an inflammation of the brain contracted in the early stages of pregnancy. The funding could help institutions such as SUNY Upstate “advance their important work to protect pregnant mothers and their children — before it’s too late,” according to Schumer’s office.

“With so many women and families across Central New York looking for action and global health leaders like Upstate ready to assist, it is critical that members of Congress work together to green-light this $1.9 billion in emergency funding. We need to get this done as soon as possible so that institutions like SUNY Upstate can use their expertise to help stem the spread of Zika,” said Schumer. “Simply put, anyone repellent to this emergency funding plan isn’t serious about beating Zika.”

With legislation “necessary to take on” the Zika virus headed to the Senate floor “soon,” Schumer announced he is supporting President Barack Obama’s emergency funding request of $1.9 billion, which would help prevent and treat the spread of the Zika epidemic.

More than 800 Americans have already contracted Zika, with more than 60 confirmed cases in New York state, Schumer said.

The data prove the disease is “still spreading” and Congress “must act to help stop it,” Schumer said.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recently confirmed the link between Zika during pregnancy and severe birth defects, like microcephaly, a medical condition where the brain doesn’t develop properly and the child’s head is smaller than normal.

Upstate Medical research
SUNY Upstate Medical University conducts work and research in solving serious health issues facing women and children, Schumer explained.

The medical school is “well equipped” to aid in the development of “prevention, diagnosis and treatment” of these types of viruses.

The medical school on April 28 announced its global maternal child and pediatric health program to address global-health issues women face during pregnancy and children face during early childhood, including the Zika virus.

The program is part of Upstate’s Center for Global Health & Translational Science.

The Zika virus is an example of an infectious disease that has emerged as a “global health problem creating a global health emergency,” Dr. Timothy Endy, professor of medicine and vice-chair for research in the school’s department of medicine, said in Schumer’s news release. Endy is also chief of the department’s infectious-disease division.

“The association of Zika virus with birth defects and sexual transmission is in particular concerning and devastating to mothers and their infants who are born with Zika associated birth defects. Understanding how to control this virus in its mosquito vector, preventing its spread to other countries and to the United States; protecting mothers and their infants through the development of therapeutics and vaccines against this virus, are essential efforts that require funding and support. Sen. Schumer’s efforts to increase the funding to support these efforts is outstanding and key to stopping the spread of this viral infection and devastating health effects,” said Endy.

Contact Reinhardt at ereinhardt@cnybj.com

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