Udall, Heinrich Announce $400,000 Grant from CDC to Detect, Combat Zika Related Birth Defects

WASHINGTON –  Today, U.S. Senators Tom Udall and Martin Heinrich announced that the New Mexico Department of Health will receive a $400,000 grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to help establish, enhance and maintain systems to rapidly detect microcephaly and other adverse birth outcomes related to the Zika virus. The grant will fund surveillance, intervention and referral to services for infants suffering from these birth defects.

This past week, public health officials confirmed that they have identified multiple cases of the Zika virus in a Florida neighborhood as a result of bites from local mosquitos. These cases represent the first documented local transmissions of the Zika virus in the continental United States and the CDC recently issued a domestic travel advisory as a result. The Zika virus has been linked to severe health risks for pregnant women and their children—including microcephaly, which can lead to below-average head size, developmental difficulties and brain damage. The New Mexico Department of Health has already reported four cases of Zika in New Mexico that were acquired while traveling abroad. Two Aedes mosquito species known to be able to transmit Zika have been found in four New Mexico counties. 

“It is imperative that we protect pregnant women and children from the risks posed by the Zika virus. I welcome the CDC’s grant, which will help equip the New Mexico Department of Health with the tools to effectively identify adverse birth outcomes like microcephaly,” Udall said. “Public health emergencies like Zika require a robust response. Congress urgently needs to pass adequate funding to address this crisis without adding partisan poison pill provisions. I will continue to fight for a solution that will ensure we are protecting our most vulnerable citizens from the very real threat of Zika.”

“The research funded by this CDC grant will help New Mexico scientists and doctors develop tools to fight Zika,” said Heinrich, who met with researchers in the Division of Infectious Diseases at the University of New Mexico Health Sciences Center in July and was briefed on their work to combat the Zika virus and other mosquito-borne infectious diseases. “We are starting to see cases of transmission by mosquitos in the United States, and several counties in New Mexico are home to the Aedes mosquito that spreads this virus. We must take steps to combat this public health emergency by passing emergency Zika funding. Every day that passes delays lifesaving research and the development of a Zika vaccine to protect pregnant women and their unborn children from the birth defects caused by Zika. Women and families across the country can’t afford to wait any longer.”