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Over $1Mil going to AS-DOH to combat Zika virus

[Source: Yahoo News]

American Samoa is getting a boost of just over $1 million from the US Centers for Medicaid and Medicare (CMS) to combat the spread of the Zika virus as well as treatment services for health conditions related to Zika — there are more than 1,000 suspected cases in the territory.

 In a news release yesterday morning, Congresswoman Aumua Amata announced that American Samoa is getting $1.1 million from CMS under the Zika Healthcare Services Program.

The federal money, which goes to the local Department of Health, is part of a total $66.1 million in funding to health departments in American Samoa, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and Florida to help combat the Zika virus, according to CMS in a national news release yesterday morning.

“This funding will help prevent the spread of the Zika virus and meet the health needs of people who have been infected,” said Vikki Wachino, the CMS deputy administrator, in the news release, which also says the US Congress authorized this funding in continuing appropriations for FY 2017 and Zika Response and Preparedness Act.

Funds will support prevention activities and treatment services for health conditions related to the Zika virus, including improving provider capacity and capability, says CMS, adding that “Zika remains a serious health concern”, as Zika virus infection during pregnancy has been linked to fetal death and other adverse birth outcomes; including microcephaly and other potentially severe fetal brain defects.

Responding to Samoa News inquiries, CMS’ press office in Washington D.C confirmed the $1.1 million funding to the local DOH. CMS spokesman Jonathan P. Mengel explained, “While the applicants will receive an initial award for the entire amount allocated, funding will be incrementally released over the 36-month budget and project period based upon an annual assess of the recipient’s progress.”

As of Jan. 6, there were 1,052 Zika virus suspected cases in American Samoa with 62 cases confirmed through laboratory testing. Of that total, 28 are pregnant women, according to DOH data.

In accordance with the Zika Response and Preparedness Act, entities eligible for this funding opportunity include states, territories, tribes or tribal organizations with active or local transmission of the Zika virus, as confirmed by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)

However, when the funding opportunity, under the federal law, was announced Nov. 9 last year, the CDC designated American Samoa, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Florida as areas with laboratory-confirmed active or local Zika virus transmission.

As such, this emergency funding opportunity was only available to these four jurisdictions, according to CMS, adding that there are states with laboratory-confirmed Zika cases that are not currently eligible for these funds because the cases are travel associated and not locally acquired.

According to the funding distribution list, Puerto Rico gets a huge amount, $60.6 million, because it has the highest incidence of locally transmitted Zika cases. Allocations of funds are based on the percent of active and local Zika cases reported by the CDC and the size of the populations in these areas.

As of Jan. 18, the CDC website says that total Zika cases reported in Puerto Rico, US Virgin Islands and American Samoa reached 35,527 — with 35,392 locally acquired; and Puerto Rico has the highest number of reported cases.

Last month, DOH was awarded $500,000 from the US Health Resources & Services Administration (HRSA) under the Zika Maternal and Child Health Services Program.