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Schumer pushing for funding to research Zika virus at SUNY Upstate

Ellen Abbott
Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) at SUNY Upstate Wednesday.

Health officials in central New York this week have announced that three people in Onondaga County and one in Oneida County have tested positive for the Zika virus. Officials say all four people contracted the virus while traveling outside the country, none were hospitalized, and there is no risk to the public. 

Sen. Charles Schumer (D-NY) says Congress needs to move quickly to get more funding in the hands of researchers who are studying the Zika virus. Schumer sent that message during a stop Wednesday at SUNY Upstate Medical University in Syracuse, where research on the virus is already under way.

Schumer wants legislation on the president’s desk by the end of this month. He hopes to get $1.9 billion in emergency funding approved.

Credit Ellen Abbott / WRVO News

He says with summer coming, and mosquito populations blooming, the concern over transmission of the disease becomes more urgent. And he notes there are still plenty of questions about the virus, which fist popped up in South America.

“Now we’ve just learned that it can be transmitted with sexual contact. But if a man has Zika, we don’t know how long after he gets over the symptoms of Zika that he’s still liable to transmit the virus through sexual contact. Nor do we know how long to tell a woman to avoid becoming pregnant after she’s had Zika,” said Schumer.

The CDC has confirmed that Zika can cause severe birth defects. That’s how it was first discovered in South America, and now 800 cases have been confirmed in the U.S., including one death in Puerto Rico. All cases in the U.S. have been contracted overseas.

Schumer says the funds would help researchers find a vaccine, as well as pay for mosquito control programs.