Carper announces Zika funding, calls on Congress to provide more to respond to ongoing crisis

SMYRNA, Del. – Today, U.S. Senator Tom Carper (D-Del.) joined Delaware Public Health Director Dr. Karyl Rattay and Delaware Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control Secretary David Small to announce $813,000 in federal funding to help Delaware’s efforts to prevent and respond to the Zika virus.

The first grant, the Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity (ELC) funding, was for a total of $1.7 million. The state receives the grant every year. But this year it included about $543,000 which can be used to fight Zika and West Nile Virus.  The other grant, the Public Health Emergency Preparedness grant targets Zika specifically and provides $270,000.  Both grants are from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

The grants will fund additional education, outreach and advertising, data tracking, lab testing expenses, disease surveillance, planning, personnel, and preparedness.  The funding will also be used to conduct Zika workshops and a table-top exercise, to strengthen Zika preparedness and response among Delawareans with access and functional needs, for Zika kits for pregnant women, and related needs. And the ELC grant will help fund a new epidemiologist and a part-time physician to examine infants.?

About $166,000 of the $813,000 grant funds will also aid the Department of Natural Resources and Environmental Control (DNREC) in mosquito control and surveillance efforts.

While this funding will go toward Zika and other mosquito-related research, funding for additional Zika research – including development of a vaccine – public education, outreach, and wider contraception availability is needed to stop this growing crisis.

“Today we had a chance to see firsthand the work Delaware is doing to prevent the spread of the Zika virus and the plans in place to respond to this kind of public health crisis,” said U.S. Senator Tom Carper. “While this initial funding is much-needed, when Congress returns from recess in September, it’s absolutely critical that we pass emergency funding to help stem the tide of this burgeoning health crisis.”

“The Division of Public Health has worked on the Zika issue for months, and we are ready; we are prepared,” said DPH Director Dr. Karyl T. Rattay. “Following guidance by the CDC, DPH has organized a Zika Action team comprised of individuals with expertise in: infectious disease, epidemiology, maternal and child health, lab testing, communications, mosquito control and emergency preparedness. The new funding will help DPH continue to implement the action team’s plan.”

“This funding will greatly enhance our efforts to raise awareness among Delawareans about how they can reduce mosquito populations around their homes, boost our response capability to more effectively implement localized controls and improve our ability to monitor mosquito populations around the state,” said David Small, DNREC Secretary. “We greatly appreciate the current and past efforts of Senator Carper and our congressional delegation to support programs to protect public health and the environment.”

Last week, Senator Carper, along with Senator Chris Coons (also D-Del.) and 39 of their colleagues sent a letter to Senator Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan urging the Republican leaders to call Congress back into session to pass emergency funding legislation to address the growing Zika crisis

Following the announcement, DNREC’s Mosquito Control Administrator Dr. Bill Meredith and Program Manager Tom Moran demonstrated actions homeowners can take to reduce backyard mosquito-producing habitat. The Asian tiger mosquito (Aedes albopictus), widely found throughout Delaware including on many residential properties, carries West Nile virus and can possibly transmit Zika too. This species lays its eggs around the home where standing water can accumulate – clogged rain gutters, abandoned swimming pools and most importantly, any container that can hold water, such as flower pot liners, cans, scrap tires, wheelbarrows and uncovered trash cans.  Due to this species’ habitats and behaviors, controlling them solely with insecticides has been challenging.  Reducing Asian tiger populations around the home by preventing or eliminating larval habitat is critical for reducing their bites and the possible transmission of mosquito-borne diseases. 

Delaware Public Health and DNREC provide fact sheets on the Zika Virus, both found here