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Schumer says Congress should return from recess to address Zika

ALBANY, N.Y. — Senator Charles Schumer said Sunday Congress must return to Washington to take up emergency funding to combat the Zika virus.

The New York Democrat said ongoing work on a vaccine could be jeopardized unless lawmakers end their current recess early and approve a $1.9 billion emergency Zika funding bill.

Schumer said he made his request in a letter to House and Senate leadership.

State officials say there have been 537 confirmed cases of Zika in New York so far, though all appear to be connected to travel to affected areas.

Schumer said lawmakers would only have to return to Washington for a single day to approve the funding. Congress is now scheduled to reconvene in September.


Zika, which is spread by mosquito bites, can produce infections leading to Guillain-Barré Syndrome, in which the immune system attacks the nervous system, leading to temporary paralysis. In pregnant women, it may cause subsequent birth defects.

On Friday, health officials said an elderly person infected with Zika has died in Puerto Rico as the US territory battles what federal authorities call a silent epidemic.

The victim was a 75-year-old man who was hospitalized and died from health ailments unrelated to Zika, according to Health Secretary Ana Rius.

Rius declined to elaborate, and officials with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention referred all questions to Puerto Rico’s Health Department.

The first Zika-related death in Puerto Rico was reported in late April and involved a 70-year-old man from the San Juan metro area. He suffered internal bleeding after developing a condition in which antibodies that formed in response to a Zika infection began attacking blood platelet cells.

At the time, Rius said there were three other cases of the condition known as severe thrombocytopenia and those patients recovered.

Puerto Rico has a total of 8,776 Zika cases, with 1,480 new cases reported over the last week. There are now at least 901 pregnant women with Zika, which has been linked to severe birth defects.


The director of the CDC has said he is concerned many of those women could give birth to babies with microcephaly. However, Rius said all 95 of pregnant women with Zika who have given birth have healthy babies.

A total of 88 people in Puerto Rico have been hospitalized because of Zika, and 27 have been diagnosed with Guillain-Barre.

Associated Press