Representatives Raúl M. Grijalva (D-Arizona) and Ann Kirkpatrick (D-Arizona) led 33 of their congressional colleagues in sending a letter to House Speaker Paul Ryan and Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi on Monday, May 16 urging immediate action on a Zika funding supplemental that includes dedicated funding for tribal communities.
In the letter, Kirkpatrick and Grijalva note that tribal communities are “among the most at-risk for tick- and mosquito-borne diseases” and that the Indian Health Service (IHS) lacks “the staffing or resources to undertake needed control operations.”
The letter includes an appeal to make grants available to tribal communities to establish managed areas of control and help provide long-term infrastructure to better protect these communities from health risks.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Zika is spread through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito. Common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes, but symptoms can be mild, and can last several days to a week after being bitten. People don’t typically get sick enough to go to the hospital, and rarely die from Zika. Many don’t even realize they have been infected. However, Zika infection during pregnancy can cause a serious birth defect called microcephaly, a condition where a baby’s head and brain is smaller and not developed properly.
“While Zika is a growing threat in many parts of the globe, I’m particularly concerned about vulnerable communities like the 12 Native American tribes in my Arizona district. We must ensure they have the resources and funding to fight Zika and other vector-borne diseases,” Kirkpatrick said in a release. “Congress has a responsibility to stand up for our tribes and prioritize communities that are at high risk for public health threats. I urge leadership to immediately hold a vote on emergency funding.”
“There is no excuse for congressional inaction in the face of the mounting threat posed by the Zika virus,” Grijalva said in a release. “Now is the time to ensure funding for a robust response that will stave off the worst impacts of this virus, including in our often overlooked native populations. Tribal communities are among those most susceptible to vector-borne diseases, and many live in the geographic front lines of the Zika virus’s range. Congress must ensure our nation is equipped and prepared to respond to this threat – that means providing funding for those efforts without delay.”
Read the full text of the letter here.