State receives nearly $1 million in grants to combat Zika virus

The Aedes aegypti that transmits the Zika virus.

The Aedes aegypti that transmits the Zika virus.

State officials have nearly $1 million in new funds at their disposal to fight the Zika virus after receiving a pair of federal grants from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The CDC is giving the Connecticut Department of Public Health two grants – a $579,000 grant announced Monday and a $400,000 grant announced Tuesday – to protect Connecticut residents from the Zika virus and monitor existing cases. This week’s grants add to a $320,000 grant awarded by the CDC in early July, bringing the total funds available to about $1.3 million.

Florida’s governor announced Monday as many as 14 cases of the Zika virus in his state may have been locally transmitted – the first cases of the virus transmitted in the continental United States.

The $579,000 grant announced Monday will be used to “support and enhance the state’s efforts to protect Connecticut residents from Zika virus and monitor serious birth defects, like microcephaly, and other adverse health outcomes that can be caused by Zika virus,” Gov. Dannel P. Malloy’s office said.

The additional $400,000 announced Tuesday will be used by state officials to “establish, enhance, and maintain information-gathering systems to rapidly detect microcephaly,” Malloy’s office said.

Microcephaly is a birth defect of the brain passed onto a baby in the womb of a mother infected with the virus.

“This grant will continue to help Connecticut in our preparation efforts and ensure that our state’s residents are protected to the fullest extent possible. We are doing everything we can at the state level to prepare,” Malloy said in a statement. “I thank the CDC for awarding this grant to our state, and again stress the need for Congress to approve much-needed emergency funding to enhance these efforts nationally.”

U.S. Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., said at a Monday press conference in East Hartford he plans to advocate for additional federal funding to combat the virus. He and two other members of Connecticut’s congressional delegation – U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., and U.S. Rep. Joe Courtney, D-2nd District – are calling on the House and Senate to return from recess to approve new federal funding.

“Those federal dollars are welcome and they’re important,” Blumenthal said Monday. “But they are only a fraction of the support and resources that are necessary to combat this looming epidemic.”

A mid-July update showed Connecticut health officials had tested 491 residents for the Zika virus. Forty-five people, including three pregnant women, tested positive. None of the cases are believed to have been contracted in the United States.

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