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Editorial: Congress needs to realize Zika isn’t a partisan issue

Only the U.S. Congress could turn a battle against a mosquito-borne virus into a fight over Obamacare and the stars and bars.

U.S. Rep. Ben Ray Luján, D-N.M., is advocating for legislation that would dedicate $1.9 billion to fighting the Zika virus because more than 63 percent of the U.S. population lives in areas susceptible to it. Three people have been diagnosed with Zika in New Mexico.

“Congress has got to pass legislation to provide research (funding),” Luján says. The Senate in May approved $1.1 billion to fight Zika; U.S. Sens. Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich, both D-N.M., wrote in April that “it would be shortsighted and dangerous for Congress not to act quickly to give the administration the resources it needs to fully fight the Zika virus and protect Americans. … Congress has failed to address a disease that has infected more than 800 Americans in 40 states, Washington, D.C., and 3 U.S. territories, including 89 pregnant women.”

Luján says House Republicans have proposed just $622 million with strings attached that would cut funding in the Affordable Care Act and “protect the Confederate flag.”

FYI, infected mosquitoes don’t target “red” or “blue” states or blood. Federal funding needs to focus on the problem at hand and not get bogged down in partisan politics and special interest causes. And any funding could help advance the promising developments in combatting Zika happening in New Mexico.

Sandia National Laboratories is working on diagnosis, treatment and nanotechnology treatment delivery, and the University of New Mexico School of Medicine is ready to start field trials in Brazil that use lemongrass oil and yeast to target mosquito larvae in standing water as well develop an inexpensive fluorescent antibody test for humans and mosquitoes.

Zika usually causes a mild illness in infected people but can lead to severe brain abnormalities in a fetus if the mother is infected. Golfers Jason Day, Rory McIlroy and Vijay Singh, as well as cyclist Tejay van Garderen, have pulled out of the Rio Olympics over Zika fears.

Their concern is all about the health of their future children, and Luján is right that that’s where Congress’ concerns need to be as well.

This editorial first appeared in the Albuquerque Journal. It was written by members of the editorial board and is unsigned as it represents the opinion of the newspaper rather than the writers.

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