Zika Virus: Senate Panel to Hold Hearing 'Very Soon'

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As the U.S. government braces itself for a possible outbreak of the Zika virus, lawmakers are trying to find what role they can play in protecting the vulnerable.

The chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee said Friday that his panel would hold a hearing "very soon" on how Congress can help support efforts to prevent the spread of the virus, which officials suspect is leading to diseases that can have severe consequences for newborns.

There have been 35 reported cases of the virus in the United States, according to ABC’s consultations with health departments in all 50 states.

“The spread of the Zika virus in South America and other regions, affecting so many mothers and fathers and children, is heartbreaking and its threat to the United States is of big concern,” Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-TN), the HELP Committee chairman, said in a statement.

As Congress figures out exactly how it can contribute, other members are reaching out to federal agencies to make sure they are doing everything in their power.

Sens. Ron Johnson (R-WI) and Tom Carper (D-DE), the top two members of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, wrote to the Department of Homeland Security and the Center for Disease Control asking for details about what both agencies are doing to track and prevent the spread of the virus.

And Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) is urging the National Institute of Health’s Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases to speed up research and development of a Zika vaccine.

“The Zika virus has now spread to at least 24 countries and territories. I strongly urge you to shift resources as necessary to aggressively combat this global health challenge,” she said in her letter.