Center for American Progress

RELEASE: Plans to Address Zika Transmission Must Include a Comprehensive Approach to Reproductive and Maternal Health
Press Release

RELEASE: Plans to Address Zika Transmission Must Include a Comprehensive Approach to Reproductive and Maternal Health

Washington, D.C. — As lawmakers in Congress continue to debate funding levels to fight the Zika virus, the Center for American Progress released a new issue brief today outlining why plans to address Zika transmission must include a comprehensive approach to reproductive and maternal health. The brief also calls on Congress to swiftly approve the $1.9 billion in emergency supplemental funds requested by President Barack Obama in support of the U.S. response to the Zika virus.

The Zika virus is spread primarily through bites from certain types of infected mosquitoes but can also be transmitted sexually from men to their partners. The virus is of special concern for pregnant women as it has been directly linked to microcephaly, a neonatal condition that causes infants to be born with small heads, which can cause children to experience developmental disabilities over time. The birth defects associated with the virus may not be detectable in a fetus until after 20 weeks gestation.

To date, there have been no locally acquired vector-borne cases of Zika in the continental United States. However, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, recently announced that 279 pregnant women in the United States and U.S. territories have tested positive for the Zika virus. The CDC estimates an uptick in local transmission during the summer months due to more active mosquito populations, particularly in the Southern region of the United States.

“As the summer months approach, we could see a disproportionate impact on low-income women and children living in affected areas,” said Jamila Taylor, a Senior Fellow at the Center for American Progress and author of the issue brief. “These are communities already steeped in the cycle of poverty—lacking access to comprehensive health care, adequate shelter, livable wages, and a host of other basic needs. We need Congress to approve adequate funding now to address the transmission of Zika.”

As CAP’s new brief highlights, efforts to address the virus must include a comprehensive approach to meeting the sexual, reproductive, and maternal health needs of women. Women living in areas where there is an increased risk for infection must be provided with comprehensive counseling and access to their contraceptive method of choice.

Similarly, pregnant women who test positive for Zika must have access to comprehensive prenatal and postnatal care should they choose to carry their pregnancies to term. Comprehensive counseling, education, pediatric care, and social supports must also be provided for women who give birth to infants with microcephaly. In the event that a woman makes the difficult decision to terminate her pregnancy, safe abortion care should be made available to her.

The Republican-controlled House and Senate recently passed separate Zika response funding measures, equaling $622 million and $1.1 billion, respectfully. However, to effectively fight transmission of the virus, Congress must act swiftly to approve the $1.9 billion in emergency supplemental funds requested by President Obama.

Read the issue brief: Zika Virus in the United States by Jamila Taylor

Related resource: What the Media and Congress Are Missing on Zika and Poverty by Jamila Taylor (via TalkPoverty.org)

For more information or to speak to an expert, contact Chelsea Kiene at ckiene@americanprogress.org or 202.478.5328.

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