Congressman Thomas J. Rooney

Representing the 17th District of Florida

Zika Resource Center


What is it?

Zika is a virus – similar to Dengue and West Nile – that spreads to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, though it can also be sexually transmitted and can be passed from a pregnant woman to her baby. Given the extremely concerning emergence of Zika cases in Florida, I wanted to provide you with the following information and resources that you may find useful as our nation addresses this virus. As always, for individual questions and concerns about your health, you should contact your personal health care provider.

Where did Zika come from?

The Zika virus was first discovered in 1947 and is named after the Zika Forest in Uganda. In 1952, the first human cases of Zika were detected and since then, small outbreaks of Zika were reported in tropical Africa, Southeast Asia, and the Pacific Islands. Zika outbreaks have probably occurred in numerous locations, though because the symptoms of Zika are similar to those of many other diseases, these cases may not have been recognized. Before 2007, at least 14 cases of Zika had been documented, although other cases likely occurred and were not reported.

In May 2015, the Pan American Health Organization (PAHO) issued an alert regarding the first confirmed Zika virus infection in Brazil. On February 1, 2016, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika virus a Public Health Emergency of International Concern (PHEIC). Local transmission has been reported in a number of countries – primarily in Central and South America – as well as the U.S. territories of Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands, and American Samoa. To date, over 350 travel-associated cases of Zika have been reported in Florida. Recently, the first locally transmitted cases have been reported in Miami-Dade and Broward counties in Florida. 

*For more information on countries and territories with active Zika virus transmission, please visit the CDC’s website here.

What are the risks?

Only about 1 in 5 people infected with Zika virus will develop symptoms and most people will not get sick enough to go to the hospital. The most common symptoms are fever, rash, joint pain, or red eyes. Other common symptoms include muscle pain and headache. In adults, the illness typically resolves within a week.

However, if a mother contracts a Zika infection during pregnancy it can be very dangerous to her baby and can cause a birth defect of the brain called microcephaly where the baby’s head is much smaller than expected. While some women infected with Zika have delivered babies that appear to be healthy, scientists at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) have concluded that Zika virus can cause microcephaly and other severe fetal brain defects.

*For more information about how the Zika virus affects pregnancy, please see this fact sheet from the March of Dimes.

What can I do?

The mosquitoes that carry Zika are aggressive daytime biters, but they can also bite at night. You can help protect yourself by:

  • Draining standing water in and around your home where mosquitos can breed
  • Covering your skin with insect repellent and clothing
  • Covering your windows with screens
  • Avoiding sexual transmission by using protection if your partner may have been infected
  • Stay up to date with the Florida Department of Health’s Daily Zika Updates

What is my Congressman doing?

I was proud to be one of two Florida House Members appointed to the Zika Conference Committee to work out the differences between the House and Senate’s version of the funding bill to combat Zika. This Committee’s job was to produce a final Zika Conference Report to be approved by the House and Senate, then sent to the President to be signed into law.

Since reports of the virus in the US first emerged earlier this year, I have been actively monitoring Zika. My colleagues on the House Appropriations Committee and I met with Administration officials and experts in the field to determine what funding was needed immediately to prevent a Zika outbreak in the US and to determine how much the Administration could reasonably absorb and spend within a short period of time.

Our final Zika Conference Report bill provides $1.1 billion in immediate funding for domestic and international efforts to fight Zika and prevent the virus from spreading in the United States. I worked to represent your interests by ensuring the final report directly sends a portion of that $1.1 billion to states like Florida that have been experiencing active cases of Zika. House Republicans’ focus has been to act quickly and responsibly, and this bill reflects our attempt to give the Administration the money it says it needs immediately. While this Zika Conference Report quickly passed the House with near unanimous Republican support, I was disappointed to see that despite their calls for more funding and quick action, not one Florida Democrat voted in support of the bill. Even worse, Democrats in the Senate have blocked passage of this bill, thereby stalling its $1.1 billion from being used for Zika treatment and prevention. 

In Florida we have a number of confirmed cases of the virus and mosquito season is already upon us – which means we have no time to waste. I have said from the very beginning that we cannot make public health a political issue and I’m disappointed that my Democratic colleagues voted against providing $1.1 billion toward our response efforts. Public health and responsible government spending do not have to be mutually exclusive. Time is of the essence and there is absolutely no good or practical excuse to vote against – or veto – this bill.

I pledge to continue doing all that I can to advocate on your behalf for the funding we urgently need to fight Zika, and I call upon my Democratic colleagues to choose public health over politics by passing the Zika Conference Report NOW.

Sources: The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Florida Department of Health, the World Health Organization, and the March of Dimes.