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Abbott asks feds for Zika funding, guidance


AUSTIN — As Texas braces for a possible Zika virus outbreak via local mosquito populations, Gov. Greg Abbott asked federal health officials Wednesday to review the state’s plan to combat the disease, which has been linked to serious birth defects.

In a letter sent to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Tom Frieden on Wednesday, Abbott, an outspoken critic and litigator of the Obama administration, touted Texas’ cooperation with the federal government in the face of a potential public health crisis.

“Having the CDC’s input on that plan before it is finalized — and before Zika takes a foothold in Texas — is critical,” Abbott wrote. “Like the CDC, the State of Texas, along with our local partners, is taking steps to prevent and prepare for local transmission of the Zika virus.”

Abbott also called on the CDC to help pay for public health preparedness measures in Texas. State leaders have asked for about $11 million for Zika surveillance and laboratory infrastructure.

Additional federal funding would “ensure that we are developing and implementing the strongest possible Zika virus response,” Abbott wrote.

Currently widespread in Latin America, the Zika virus has been linked in pregnant women to microcephaly, a condition causing babies to be born with abnormally small heads and developmental defects.

Federal funding for Zika research and preparedness has languished in Congress since the Obama administration in February asked for nearly $1.9 billion to combat the disease.

Public health experts have warned that Aedes aegypti mosquito populations in South Texas and along the Gulf Coast increase the chances of the virus transmitting locally.

EDGAR WALTERS reports for The Texas Tribune where this story was originally published. It is made available here through a news partnership between the Texas Tribune and the San Marcos Mercury.

COVER: An Aedes aegypti mosquito.