As Senate Debates Obama Emergency Funding Request to Combat Zika Epidemic, Markey Queries Federal Agencies About U.S. Response, Including Use of Genetically Modified Mosquitoes

In letters to EPA, HHS and FDA, Markey asks for details about the systemic and infrastructure changes necessary to combat Zika epidemic


Washington (May 13, 2016) – Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.), top Democrat on the Senate Foreign Relations Africa and Global Health Policy subcommittee, today sent letters to the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) asking about the country’s health care system capacity to prepare for and respond to active Zika transmission on American soil. In his letter to the EPA and FDA, Senator Markey specifically asks about the use of genetically modified mosquitoes as a potential strategy to reduce Zika virus transmission and concerns that remain about the effectiveness and safety of the technology. The Zika virus, an infection typically transmitted by a mosquito that has been linked to a severe birth defect know as microcephaly and a higher incidence of Guillain-Barré syndrome, is spreading rapidly through South and Central America. The Senate is currently debating the Obama administration's request for an emergency supplemental appropriation of $1.9 billion to fight Zika.


“This new use of genetically modified mosquitoes departs dramatically from the more traditional methods of controlling disease-spreading mosquitoes through the use of insecticides approved by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) because a modified organism is being released into the environment,” writes the Senator in the letter to EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and FDA Commissioner Robert Califf. “Please explain how the U.S. fight against the threat of Zika will be advanced through the use of these genetically modified mosquitoes.”


A copy of Senator Markey’s letter to the EPA and FDA can be found HERE. A copy of the letter to Health and Human Services can be found HERE.


In his letter to HHS, Senator Markey asks for detailed information on how the emergency supplemental appropriation request of $1.9 billion will be used toward detecting, diagnosing and providing care for individuals infected with Zika. He also emphasizes the need for long term care and support for those impacted by the Zika virus and asks for information on what is being done to prepare the health care work force and individual state health departments for increased incidence of the Zika virus, especially for conditions such as microcephaly, Guillian-Barré syndrome and other neurological disorders.


Earlier this year, Senator Markey called on President Obama to designate a White House-level position to oversee all emerging infectious disease threats, including the Zika virus, and to outline a plan that establishes a rapid response system and infrastructure to ensure the nation is prepared for the next global health threat. In January, Senator Markey asked both HHS and the World Health Organization how each is working to deal with the ever-growing spread of the Zika virus.