Ms. KLOBUCHAR. Madam President, I rise today to discuss this urgent public health emergency. I am honored to be here with Senator Murray, Senator Mikulski, Senator Heitkamp, and Senator Hirono as we look at this serious crisis facing our Nation, and that is the Zika virus.
The World Health Organization has declared that Zika is spreading explosively and will affect nearly all countries in North America and South America. The virus has already infected nearly 400 Americans who have traveled abroad from 40 States, including my home State of Minnesota. Over 500 people in Puerto Rico have the disease. Nearly all of them contracted the virus locally. These numbers will only continue to grow as the warmer months bring more mosquitoes that transmit this disease. In fact, researchers calculate that 60 percent of the people in our country live in an area that will likely be affected.
Zika is a rapidly evolving mosquito-borne virus. Most infected patients develop mild flu-like symptoms that last for a week. However, the virus has devastating consequences for growing families. Researchers have now confirmed what many feared was true: A pregnant woman infected with Zika is at risk of giving birth to a child with microcephaly. This heartbreaking, lifelong condition results in newborns with abnormally small heads. These children will need increased access to health care and developmental services, such as speech therapy, occupational therapy, and physical therapy. There is no known cure for this disease or even standard treatment for this condition.
It is crucial that physicians have the knowledge and tools essential to diagnose and care for pregnant women who may be infected with Zika. It is crucial that moms with Zika and children with microcephaly have access to the services they need. It is crucial that we take steps now to ensure that our health care system and all levels of government are prepared for the imminent spread of the Zika virus.
We are here today to continue to stress the urgent need to ensure that our country is as prepared as possible to mitigate the spread of Zika and respond to outbreaks of this virus.
The administration submitted a request for nearly $2 billion in emergency funds to provide immediate support. This is about research. This is about a vaccine. This is about therapeutics and diagnostics. This is about a medical health crisis that primarily--but not only--affects women and children. That is why the women Democrats of the Senate have gathered on the floor today to speak out, to speak out and say this is a crisis that must be funded. This is a crisis that must be responded to.
Simply because it mainly affects women and children right now--and we have no idea what other effects it will have--is no reason to shirk our duties in the Congress and not fund this. Our foremost duty is to protect the health and safety of Americans. Zika is a rapidly evolving disease with severe public health implications. I ask my colleagues to support this effort. We cannot afford to delay action.
I yield the floor.