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CDC: Funding For Zika Virus Tracking In The Virgin Islands And Puerto Rico Expected To End This Summer

ATLANTA — Federal monies that have helped states and territories track the Zika virus may come to an end by this summer, putting at risk efforts to better understand the mostly mosquito-borne virus and the devastating birth defects associated with it.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention told state health officials in a meeting last month that Zika funding is running out and that additional support should not be expected — including for education, according to a news report.

An agency spokeswoman declined to confirm the report for the Virgin Islands Free Press, saying in an email that the CDC did not yet have a budget for the next fiscal year and could not speculate on how funding for Zika might be affected.

Last year, Congress provided $1.1 billion to the CDC for Zika response and preparedness that was mostly passed on to local and state public health departments.

In the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, the federal money helped to expand mosquito surveillance, tracking of birth defects related to Zika and programs to educate residents about the disease, among other efforts. The money has been distributed to states through different grants for different purposes.

As of this week, some 686 Zika virus infections have been confirmed in St. Thomas; 251 Zika virus infections have been confirmed in St. Croix and 89 Zika virus infections have been confirmed in St. John — since October 2015, according to V.I. Department of Health data.

According to the CDC, 58 babies in the U.S. were born with birth defects related to Zika as of April 11. Those defects include microcephaly, a condition in which a baby’s head and brain are smaller than normal, causing developmental delays and other problems.

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The Author

John McCarthy

John McCarthy

John McCarthy is primarily known for his investigative reporting on the U.S. Virgin Islands. A series of reports beginning in the 1990's revealed that there was everything from coliform bacteria to Cryptosporidium in locally-bottled St. Croix drinking water, according to a then-unpublished University of the Virgin Islands sampling. Another report, following Hurricane Hugo in 1989, cited a Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) confidential overview that said that over 40 percent of the U.S. Virgin Islands public lives below the poverty line. The Virgin Islands Free Press is the only Caribbean news source to regularly incorporate the findings of U.S. Freedom of Information Act requests. John's articles have appeared in the BVI Beacon, St. Croix Avis, San Juan Star and Virgin Islands Daily News. He is the former news director of WSVI-TV Channel 8 on St. Croix.

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CDC: Funding For Zika Virus Tracking In The Virgin Islands And Puerto Rico Expected To End This Summer