The U.S. Centers for Disease Control is warning that 700,000 people on the island of Puerto Rico will contract the Zika virus by the end of this year. In other words, the CDC is projecting that 20% of the island’s population will contract the Zika virus within the next nine months.
The symptoms include fever, rash, red eyes, joint and muscle pain, and headaches. Paralysis can also occur. Pregnant women have an elevated risk because they might pass the virus to the fetus, and Zika has been linked to a birth defect called microcephaly – which can produce eye defects, and severe head and brain abnormalities.
There is some “good news” in all of this: the symptoms generally last from a few days to a week, and most people infected with Zika will be symptom free. But they will still carry the virus, and asymptomatic pregnant women may still pass the virus onto their children. With roughly 33,000 babies born annually in Puerto Rico, this could lead to substantial suffering throughout the island.
THE UNITED STATES RESPONSE
The US response to this looming health crisis has been highly troubling. Last year, in 2015, the US congress imposed severe Medicaid and Medicare cuts in Puerto Rico, particularly to Medicare Advantage. Hospitals have closed, clinics are under-staffed, and many doctors have left the island.
In Washington D.C., House Speaker Paul Ryan recently stated that the Zika crisis in Puerto Rico “is something we want to get ahead of.” But then after making this statement, the House Republicans rejected Pres. Obama’s funding request of $1.9 billion for Zika prevention in Puerto Rico, Florida, Texas, and other southern states.
Incredibly, the House Republicans want to re-direct the funds away from an Ebola program in Africa, and send some of those funds to Puerto Rico.
In other words, the House Republicans are telling Obama: “you can save lives in Africa or save lives in Puerto Rico, but you can’t do both.” And they’re doing this during a presidential election year.
The health of unborn children should not be subject to the whims and personal agendas, of a handful of politicians in Washington, D.C.
THE BITTER QUESTION…THE TRAGIC ANSWER
It is time to speak clearly.
It is time to ask a fundamental question, and to demand an answer.
When three (3) people test positive for the Zika virus in the US mainland, it becomes immediate, sensational, and nationwide news.
When seven hundred thousand (700,000) Puerto Ricans are expected to become infected, the news is reported locally and soon forgotten…and as soon as the news is forgotten, the US congress quietly denies the Zika prevention funds.
And so the question becomes…are Puerto Ricans less “citizens,” or less human, than everyone else in the United States?
For a history of the War Against All Puerto Ricans, read the book…
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