May 19, 2016

WASHINGTON (May 19, 2016) – Georgetown’s Lawrence O. Gostin, a public health law expert, says the U.S. House Zika bill on emergency funding at $622 million falls dramatically short of what is needed, and the delay in Congressional action has “compromised the ability of state health departments to prepare for Zika.”

Earlier this year, President Obama asked Congress for nearly $1.9 billion in emergency funding for surveillance, mosquito control, research and health services related to the Zika virus.

“The lack of adequate funding threatens the health of Americans,” say Gostin, faculty director of the O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law. He adds:

Congress has no greater responsibility than to safeguard the public’s health and security. Yet legislators have delayed for more than three months before addressing emergency appropriations to prepare the nation for a looming Zika epidemic.

Those were vital months where states and territories would have been able to build the capacity to control mosquitos, clean up breeding grounds, and educate the public.

Summer is nearly upon us and finally Congress is acting, but with far less than the President requested and what the nation needs.

Now public health agencies will have to scramble to prepare for clusters of Zika. If as a result of this delay babies are born in mainland America with Zika-related deformities, there will be a high price to pay.

Zika has not only public health importance, but is also of moral importance because the disease is most likely to affect poor women and their babies.

To arrange an interview with Gostin, please contact Karen Teber at

Other resources:

JAMA Viewpoint: Is the United States Prepared for a Major Zika Virus Outbreak?, April 13, 2016, by Lawrence O.Gostin, JD and James G.HodgeJr, JD, LLM

Testimony by Gostin: U.S. House Energy and Commerce Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations, March 2, 2016

JAMA Viewpoint: The Emerging Zika Pandemic: Enhancing Preparedness, March 1, 2016, by Daniel R.Lucey, MD, MPH and Lawrence O.Gostin, JD

Click here for a list of Georgetown subject matter experts who can provide comment and context on Zika in the areas of infectious disease (clinical and molecular biology), biology, global health, child and maternal health, Guillain-Barre syndrome, and much more.

The O’Neill Institute for National and Global Health Law at Georgetown University is the premier center for health law, scholarship, and policy. Its mission is to contribute to a more powerful and deeper understanding of the multiple ways in which law can be used to improve the public’s health, using objective evidence as a measure. The O’Neill Institute seeks to advance scholarship, science, research, and teaching that will encourage key decision-makers in the public, private, and civil society to employ the law as a positive tool for enabling more people in the United States and throughout the world to lead healthier lives.


Contact: O’Neill Institute: Karen Teber /