New Jersey convenes Zika virus preparedness summit

ATLANTA (WABC) -- U.S. Senators Cory Booker and Bob Menendez on Friday led a statewide summit with CDC and other health officials as well as local medical professionals to discuss New Jersey's preparedness for preventing the spread of the Zika virus.

New Jersey currently has nine confirmed cases of Zika out of more than 380 nationwide, all related to travel originating overseas.

"Today's summit comes at an important time," Booker said. "We know that the risk of a Zika outbreak in the United States this summer is increasing with each passing day. Pregnant women face a particular threat, which is why it is so important that we take immediate action to protect against this disease."

President Barack Obama submitted a request to Congress in February for more than $1.8 billion in supplemental funding to respond to the Zika threat, and bipartisan negotiators from the Senate Appropriations Committee have been working on a $1.1 billion package to fund part of that request.

"It doesn't hurt to be prepared as we get towards the height of the summer when mosquitoes are more abundant and when many of us tend to travel on vacations," Menendez said. "We need to ensure dedicated efforts are in place to raise public awareness, improve testing methods and mosquito control techniques, and support research into the progression and effects of Zika and the development of treatments and vaccines."

Earlier this year, Booker and Menendez joined 44 of their Senate Democrats in urging President Obama to implement an inter-agency response plan addressing the spread of the Zika virus both at home and abroad. The Obama Administration has already transferred nearly $600 million of Ebola funds for immediate efforts to control and respond to the spread of the Zika virus.

Recently, the CDC concluded that Zika causes microcephaly, a severe birth defect involving brain damage, and other neurological and autoimmune conditions.
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