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September 07, 2017

Senate Unanimously Passes King-Authored Bill to Combat Spread of Zika Virus

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine) announced today that the U.S. Senate has unanimously passed the Strengthening Mosquito Abatement for Safety and Health (SMASH) Act, bipartisan legislation Senator King introduced that would help give states and localities the tools they need to fight back against mosquitos and the viruses they carry. The bill will now be sent to the House of Representatives for its consideration.

“Insect-borne diseases aren’t a one-year threat – they pose a long-term challenge, which is why it’s critical we act now to prepare for future dangers,” Senator King said. “By passing this legislation, we have moved one step closer to providing our states and localities with the resources they need to defend against serious illnesses. I am grateful to my Senate colleagues for their support of the SMASH Act, and am hopeful that the House can quickly pass this common-sense bill.”

The Senate’s unanimous approval of the legislation comes one week after Senator King toured the Mosquito Project at Acadia National Park’s Sieur de Monts Nature Center, where he joined researchers, scientists, health professionals, and park officials to discuss prevention strategies for mosquito- and tick-borne diseases.

More specifically, the Strengthening Mosquito Abatement for Safety and Health (SMASH) Act would reauthorize critical public health tools that support states and localities in their mosquito surveillance and control efforts, especially those linked to mosquitos that carry the Zika virus, and improve the nation’s preparedness for Zika and other mosquito-borne threats like West Nile virus and Eastern Equine Encephalitis (“triple-e”) virus.

Zika is a mosquito-borne infectious disease that is primarily transmitted to humans by the female yellow fever (A. aegypti) and Asian tiger (A. albopictus) mosquitos. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has linked the Zika virus to serious health conditions, including birth defects in infants such as microcephaly as well as neurological disorders. The SMASH Act takes the following three immediate steps to combat the threat of Zika and other mosquito-borne diseases:

  • Strengthens our ability to respond to Zika by reauthorizing and improving mosquito control: The legislation reauthorizes and makes targeted improvements to the lapsed Mosquito Abatement Safety and Health (MASH) Act, which was enacted in 2003 in response to the West Nile virus. It also authorizes increased support for state and local mosquito control work – efforts that are critical for controlling and reducing the mosquitos that spread infectious diseases. Under the bill, up to $100 million in grants will be authorized each year in addition to matching funds to state and local governments.
  • Improves public health preparedness through laboratory research: The legislation reauthorizes the epidemiology laboratory capacity grants under the Public Health Service Act, which support state and local health departments in surveillance for, and response to, infectious diseases, including Zika. Laboratory capacity plays a pivotal role in preparation for and response to public health threats.
  • Inform how we can refine and improve mosquito control: Requires timely study, report, and recommendations by the Government Accountability Office regarding existing mosquito and other vector-borne surveillance and control programs.  This analysis will help Congress to identify opportunities to strengthen our public health preparedness programs in partnerships with states and local communities. Ultimately, such analysis will better protect Americans from emerging mosquito-borne infectious diseases.  Applying the lessons learned from responses to public health threats is critical for continuing to optimize our nation’s medical and public health preparedness and response.

The legislation, which is also cosponsored by Senators Richard Burr (R-N.C.), Bill Nelson (D-Fla.). Marco Rubio (R-Fla.), Lamar Alexander (R-TN), Mazie Hirono (D-HI) and Patty Murray (D-WA), has been endorsed by the National Pest Management Association, the American Mosquito Control Association, the Entomological Society of America, the Infectious Diseases Society of America, and the American Academy of Pediatrics. To read the complete text of the bill, S.849, click HERE.


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