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ACP, Other Medical Groups Urge Congress to Prevent Zika Public Health Emergency

(Washington, May 26, 2016)—The American College of Physicians (ACP) along with the American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) and the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG) sent a letter today to House and Senate leaders urging them to immediately pass legislation that would provide the highest possible funding level for research, prevention, control, and treatment of illnesses associated with the Zika virus that is commensurate with the public health emergency that the virus represents.

The Zika virus has the potential to rapidly become a public-health emergency that poses a grave risk to patients, especially to pregnant women and their fetuses who may be at risk of severe birth defects, and more broadly, to women of child-bearing age who may become pregnant. Time is of the essence in stemming the spread of this virus. Illness brought on by the Zika virus is rising rapidly by the exposure of travelers returning to the mainland U.S. and soon the country will be entering the summer months when mosquitos that carry and transmit the virus will be proliferating.

Congress is working on legislation to address the Zika issue; however, those efforts have not yet yielded an agreement that would deliver the funding and resources necessary to fully and robustly respond to the Zika virus.

“It is imperative that the House and Senate reach an agreement without further delay; every day that goes by without an agreement is a day where more patients will be at risk of being exposed to the virus,” the letter warned.

The letter also stated that while developing a Zika response is critical, that Congress should exercise caution so that funding for other essential health initiatives is not placed at risk in order to fund the response.  The letter noted concerns that funds that were to be used by CMS to develop the technology infrastructure to implement the Medicare Access and CHIP Reauthorization Act could be diverted in a way that might undermine the ability of the agency to effectively administer the program as Congress intended.

“In my own primary care internal medicine practice, I am already hearing from many worried patients who have questions and concerns about the ZIka virus” said Nitin S. Damle, MD, MS, FACP, president of ACP.  “While I do my best to explain to them what we know today about the potential risks, there is much we don’t know yet about how to prevent, control, and treat illnesses that may result from exposure to Zika.  Every day that goes by with Congress not providing the needed funding is a day that brings us closer to Zika becoming a full-blown public health emergency.”

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The American College of Physicians is the largest medical specialty organization and the second-largest physician group in the United States. ACP members include 143,000 internal medicine physicians (internists), related subspecialists, and medical students. Internal medicine physicians are specialists who apply scientific knowledge and clinical expertise to the diagnosis, treatment, and compassionate care of adults across the spectrum from health to complex illness. Follow ACP on Twitter and Facebook.

Contact: Laura Baldwin, 215-351-2668, lbaldwin@acponline.org