Public health officials waiting on Zika funds

HOUSTON -- The FDA has approved the first commercial test for Zika and Quest Diagnostics could begin offering the option to doctors next week, just as communities are pleading for money to keep the mosquito-borne virus that causes severe birth defects from spreading.

CDC warns of expanding Zika threat in U.S.

In Houston, Texas and surrounding Harris County, $4 million a year is now spent on mosquito control. Public health officials estimate it will take another $2 million to mount an effective defense against Zika.

"I need additional inspectors to send them around," said Mustapha Debboun, director of Mosquito Control Division of Harris County Public Health and Environmental Services. "I only have four, you know, I would like to double that."

Inspectors would target potential mosquito breeding sites -- like ones in Houston after the heavy rains earlier this month.

Debboun says they also need 40 to 60 new mosquito traps specifically designed to catch the species that carries Zika, at $200-$300 apiece to start. They are turning two storage closets into a lab, with new equipment that can test mosquitoes for Zika. But the price tag for that is $320,000.

"Just think about, if we add one more trap or two more traps, you need a human being to go and set it up. You need someone to sort them, ID them, take 'em to the virology lab. Now you need an additional virology person so it's a domino effect," he said, adding "...we would like the resources and we have asked for resources. We're waiting on them."

Conditions in the South make it likely a mosquito there will eventually become the first infected with the Zika virus in the U.S.

The day after the first case of locally transmitted Zika and "all of a sudden people are gonna say, 'oh my gosh, let's get funding. Let's do all these things," said Dr. Umair Shah, who is in charge of public health for Harris County.

"Well, we have an opportunity to get those resources there and change our policies today, and yet we're not thinking about it the same way."

The White House has requested $1.9 billion dollars to fight Zika and the mosquitoes that carry it. But members of Congress have left town for a week without providing any additional funding.

Today, the CDC reported that a patient in Puerto Rico has died from a rare Zika complication.

  • Jonathan LaPook

    Dr. Jonathan LaPook is the chief medical correspondent for the CBS Evening News. Follow him on Twitter at @DrLaPook