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Federal Officials Call For New Disaster Fund After 'Mosquito-bourne' Zika Found In Florida

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Federal health officials are calling on Congress to create a permanent public-health emergency fund to make it easier to respond to epidemics.

The call comes the same day four cases of the mosquito-borne Zika virus were confirmed in Florida.

More than 1,600 people on the U.S. mainland have contracted Zika — nearly all from travel abroad — and government officials are having a hard time keeping up.

Making matters worse is congressional gridlock that’s preventing the passage of a $2 billion Zika response funding bill.

National Institutes of Health Infectious Disease Director Tony Fauci said local mosquito control workers on the frontline of the battle are being paralyzed.

“We need a fund that’s an emergency health fund. We have emergency catastrophe funds, emergency hurricane funds, emergency flood funds. What happens when you have public health outbreak, you have to have a fund available,” he said.

Fauci said the normal appropriations process just isn't fast enough as more people contract Zika each day. The Zika funding bill failed earlier this summer after Republicans amended it to also cut funding for clinics that provide abortions.

Florida Senator Bill Nelson is calling for a special session to pass the emergency-fund measure. 

Ryan Benk is a former WJCT News reporter who joined the station in 2015 after working as a news researcher and reporter for NPR affiliate WFSU in Tallahassee.