A Florida Congressman just brought a jar of 100 mosquitoes onto the House floor
Florida Republican Rep. David Jolly has a special message for lawmakers dragging their feet on a bill to fund the fight against the Zika virus:
Be afraid. Be very afraid.
On Wednesday morning, Jolly brought a clear jar filled with about 100 Florida-born mosquitoes to the House floor.
The House passed its version of the measure early this summer.
"This is the fear of Floridians, right here!" Jolly said, waving the jar of Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, the type that can carry the Zika virus.
"Can you imagine, colleagues, the fear and anxiety in this chamber if these 100 mosquitoes were outside this jar, not inside this jar?" he said.
"They are not active carriers," he assured his fellow representatives.
"But they could be."
Florida so far is the only U.S. state to record locally acquired cases of the Zika virus, although thousands of people across the country have contracted the illness after traveling abroad.
The Zika virus causes a variety of debilitating birth defects as well as health complications for adults. It can be spread by mosquitoes as well as through sexual transmission.
At least 35 people have acquired Zika in Florida via infected mosquitoes, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) last reported on Aug. 31.
Outbreaks of Zika-carrying mosquitoes have so far only occurred in two parts of Miami-Dade County: the Wynwood neighborhood and Miami Beach.
But public health officials warn the virus could spread if mosquitoes are left to breed and thrive in communities across the country.
The $1.1 billion Zika bill would provide funding to help local governments control mosquito populations and, most importantly, support researchers who are studying the virus and developing potential vaccines.
While the House has passed a version of the bill, the Senate has been unable to overcome partisan gridlock, largely because of controversial abortion provisions contained in the bill.
Federal health officials have said the CDC and other health institutions have all but run out of money to fight the virus, and are in desperate need of more funding.