Senators Call for Federal Updates on Zika Virus Outbreak

PHOTO: Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 12, 2016.Susan Walsh/AP Photo
Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tenn. speaks on Capitol Hill in Washington, Jan. 12, 2016.

The chairman of the Senate committee with oversight over public health issues has sent a letter to the head of Health and Human Services asking her to keep him apprised of the agency's efforts to stem the spread of the Zika virus in the United States.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, R-Tennessee, chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, along with Sen. Richard Burr, R-North Carolina, are also asking HHS Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell about what the agency is doing to speed the development of a Zika vaccine.

"As we saw with the Ebola outbreak in 2014, it is critical that clinicians and travelers have timely and accurate information in the face of an emerging threat,” the senators wrote to Burwell.

They also want to know whether the Zika virus might qualify for the Food and Drug Administration’s “priority review” voucher program specifically for so-called “neglected” tropical diseases, which allows recipients who are developing drugs to combat such diseases to get an expedited FDA review of their drug.

Burwell is scheduled to brief relevant congressional committee heads on Capitol Hill next week, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell announced today.