Zika funding a concern for Lufkin health officials

Zika funding a concern for Lufkin health officials
Source: KTRE Staff
Source: KTRE Staff

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - As concerns over the Zika virus grow in East Texas, health officials in Lufkin are concerned about long-term funding.

A case of Zika has been confirmed in Gregg County. The case was found in someone that traveled to a Zika-infected area. Kristina Childress with the Angelina County and Cities Health District said the concern is there but for now there have been no cases in Angelina County.

"We have not seen any cases yet," Childress said. "We are monitoring the situation."

"We are doing all that we can just to make sure we are prepared and know what we need to do in order to respond," Childress said. "We know that we have mosquitoes here so it is just a matter of time."

Childress has been busy meeting with city officials across the county to make sure public departments know how to handle a possible spread and preventative steps. For months, fliers have been circulating around the county to warn people of the virus and what can be done to prevent the spread. The fliers have been given to the health district free of charge, but there has been spending in some areas. Zika preparedness kits have been put together. The kits include mosquito spray, fliers and information packets, condemns, and other protective materials.

"We are doing everything that we can as far as educational opportunities and training we can in the community," Childress said.

One of the concerns going forward with fighting the virus is funding.

Health District Executive Director Sharon Shaw said for now funding is not a problem, but the longer the Zika outbreak goes the more concerned they become with  long-term funding.

"It only takes one outbreak to change things," Shaw said. "We need funding to continue the fight."

Earlier this year, President Obama asked for $1.9 billion to be put towards fighting the virus. Earlier this week, Democrats attacked Republicans for not coming back to Washington to pass the emergency spending. U.S. Representative Louie Gohmert said the blame is not going to the right people. Gohmert pointed out that congress had appropriated $1 billion to fight Zika, but that the Democrat-run Senate declined their offer.

"We could have already had this in use, but they are playing politics with it," Gohmert said. "Take the billion dollars, Democrats in the Senate and if there is more needed then we will do it. Let's not make this political."

Shaw said that Zika is not concerned about political lines and will attack whenever it wants.

Funding needs to get done," Shaw said. "Federal funding is necessary for research and development, for vaccine, for continued emphasis to make sure we don't just put a band aid on this; and we eradicate Zika and make sure everyone is safe."

Shaw said the district will continue to use the resources they have in the best way possible.

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