At Senate Foreign Relations hearing, urges putting in place strong health systems in vulnerable parts of the world to respond to next threat


Washington (April 7, 2016) – On the heels of the White House’s decision to temporarily transfer $589 million allocated to protect against the Ebola virus to the fight to combat the spread of Zika, Senator Edward J. Markey (D-Mass.) today held a hearing on progress on the West African Ebola epidemic and the need to implement best practices from that effort in the fight to combat the Zika virus. The hearing included representatives from the Ebola Private Sector Mobilization Group, Center for Global Development, Médecins Sans Frontières and Boston, Massachusetts-based Last Mile Health. Panelists spoke of the importance of U.S. leadership in the face of severe infectious disease threats and the nation’s unique and invaluable role in protecting humanity from such life-threatening epidemics. The United States dedicated $5.4 billion in emergency funding to combat Ebola and the Obama administration has asked Congress for an emergency supplemental appropriation of $1.9 billion to fight Zika.

“We cannot look at a false choice between responding to Zika and continuing to build health systems capable of preventing Ebola from again becoming an epidemic,” said Senator Markey, top Democrat on the Africa and Global Health Subcommittee of the Foreign Relations Committee. “While Zika presents a new challenge that America must face, we cannot become complacent about the gains we have achieved against Ebola. We must build upon the investments made during the epidemic and the wakeup call that it provided to our world. Congress must act to fight both of these threats, or be prepared answer for the consequences of inaction.”

Last month, 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 the Department of Health and Human Services and the World Health Organization how each is working to deal with the ever-growing spread of the Zika virus.