Rep. Dan Donovan asks CDC for Zika virus outbreak plan
STATEN ISLAND, N.Y. -- Amid the World Health Organization declaring a global emergency over an outbreak of the Zika virus in Latin America, Rep. Daniel Donovan has asked the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to lay out its plan for addressing the outbreak.
Only three cases of the mosquito-borne virus have been identified in New York City but WHO estimates there could be up to 4 million cases of Zika in the Americas in the next year.
According to the CDC, about 80 percent of people who contract the virus show no symptoms, and those who do, are afflicted with rarely life-threatening ailments like rash, fever, joint pain and conjunctivitis.
But the virus has been linked to cases of microcephaly, in which babies are born with underdeveloped brains and abnormally small heads.
There is no vaccine for the virus and no cure.
An outbreak in Brazil last year lead to more than a million people contracting the virus, and officials in Latin American countries have advised women there not to get pregnant until 2018.
In a letter to CDC Director Thomas Frieden, Donovan asked for the organization's plan to address cases in the United States.
"Of significant concern to me is the lack of readily available commercial tests for the Zika virus, and how this shortage may impact the CDC's ability to track the virus' spread within the United States. I would like to know what steps your agency is taking to increase the capacity of the public health system to test for Zika."
He added, "Additionally, I respectfully request that you please provide my office with information pertaining to the CDC's long-term plan for working with state and local health officials to track patient outcomes for pregnant women and their infants who have been exposed to the virus."
In a statement separate from the letter, Donovan said he has confidence in the CDC but is eager to understand whether it has all it needs to fight the growing issue.
"The CDC is the most capable public health organization on the planet," he said. "Still, this obscure disease did not threaten the public's health in any meaningful way until now, and the public has a right to know: Does the government have sufficient capacity to handle increased demand for diagnostic tests? If not, then what does the CDC need from Congress to adequately protect the public's health?"