NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — The clock is ticking on when the mosquito that carries the Zika virus becomes prevalent in the continental United States, and Sen. Charles Schumer wants quick approval of President Barack Obama’s request for nearly $2 billion in emergency spending to fight the disease.
“We need Congress to act next week and next month, not in the summer, not when the crisis is already upon us,” Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters, including 1010 WINS’ Roger Stern and WCBS 880’s Stephanie Colombini, on Sunday.
Zika in pregnant women is believed to cause a severe birth defect called microcephaly, leading to developmental problems in babies. Others who are infected may experience mild symptoms such as fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis that last several days to a week.
“Already 800 Americans have been infected with the virus — 89 pregnant women,” Schumer said. “Here in New York at least 60 confirmed cases.”
Those patients, however, were infected after being bitten by mosquitoes in areas such as South America, Central America and the Carribean.
Schumer said, as temperatures rise, southern New York is in the range of the mosquito that carries the virus and said it can spread rapidly in cities.
“You could just have water in a bottle cap, and a whole colonly of Zika mosquitoes can breed — anywhere there’s standing water,” he said.
Schumer said spending money today will save billions later on.
“If we spend the money now, we will avoid the horrible problems that a large infestation of Zika can cause,” the senator said.
He scoffed at colleagues who don’t want to spend extra money to fight the disease.
“They sort of have this austere attitude: ‘Let the public fend for itself,'” Schumer said. “That doesn’t work when it comes to communical diseases like Zika.”