EDISON — Speaking Tuesday at the Middlesex County Mosquito Extermination Commission, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., blasted Republicans for failing to provide the $1.9 billion requested by President Barack Obama to respond to the mosquito-borne Zika virus threat.

In this Jan. 18 file photo, a female Aedes aegypti mosquito at the Biomedical Sciences Institute of Sao Paulo University in Sao Paulo, Brazil. (AP Photo/Andre Penner, File)

"We need to address this and get money out to local authorities, like the Middlesex County Mosquito Commission to do spraying, as well as for the research that places like Robert Wood Johnson and Rutgers are doing on the vaccine," said Pallone.

Nearly 2,000 Americans have contracted Zika, including 80 in New Jersey. A half-billion dollars set aside for the Ebola virus has been redirected to combat Zika, which Pallone disapproves of.

"Now we're also hearing from the National Institutes of Health that their efforts to move ahead with vaccine trials is also being halted or not moving ahead," said Pallone.

"It's out of hand at this point," Pallone said, pointing out that there are now Zika cases in Puerto Rico and Florida that believed to have been transmitted by native mosquitoes.

The $2.9 billion in new money President Obama is requesting to fight Zika would be dispersed through grant programs or be given to states' public health authorities to prevent the spread of the mosquitoes, according to Pallone.

Pallone criticized Republicans who he said are against allocating additional funds or new money and want to instead take it from existing programs for things such as Ebola, tuberculosis and the Affordable Care Act.

"These things are also public health and health-related, so doesn't really make sense to do that. The Ebola crisis is not over by any means, and even though some people think TB doesn't exist anymore, it does. People get TB from traveling abroad," said Pallone, He added cutting back on prevention programs through the Affordable Care Act doesn't make sense either because those programs would probably help with Zika as well.

Pallone said usually when there is an emergency, new money is appropriated.

"The Democrats have been asking that the House and the Senate come back into session," said Pallone. He added they've been out of session on break for almost a month, one of the longest recesses in American history.

"I don't see any reason why we couldn't come back next week or sometime late August and deal with it. Right now, we're not scheduled to come back until the day after Labor Day, which I don't think we should be waiting that long," Pallone said.

Zika is especially dangerous for pregnant women and those of child-bearing age. Mother-to-child transmission can lead to miscarriage or certain birth defects, including microcephaly, in which the child is born with an abnormally small head and brain.

Contact reporter Dianne DeOliveira at Dianne.DeOliveira@townsquaremedia.com


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