AUSTIN - Leaders in the U.S. Senate could be nearing a breakthrough on funding to fight the spread of the Zika virus.
Mosquito season in Texas is marked by the endless parade of trucks spraying insecticide aimed to kill disease carriers. The mosquito-borne Zika virus can also be spread sexually and result in devastating birth defects.
For that reason, health officials have also focused on reproductive health services, in some places partnering with the nation's largest provider. Campaigning for Hillary Clinton Friday in Austin, Planned Parenthood Federation of America president Cecile Richards described the role.
"We're very proud, in the state of Florida, to be working, going door to door, educating women about how to protect themselves, how to get family planning services if they need it," Richards told KVUE. "We're doing that through Planned Parenthood, but this needs to be a national effort and Congress needs to get the job done."
Earlier this summer, a $1.1 billion deal to expand the Zika fight stalled in the Senate, in part over language denying funds to Planned Parenthood clinics in Puerto Rico -- the epicenter of the outbreak. Now with Congress back in Washington, Politico reported word of a potential breakthrough Friday.
As of Friday, the Texas Department of State Health Services has counted 174 cases of Zika; including, "11 pregnant women, two infants infected before birth, and one person who had sexual contact with a traveler."
Majority Whip Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX) exhorted his colleagues in a Thursday speech on the Senate floor, "For the health of our country, and for the protection of all our children, let's get this compromise legislation done."
A deal to let Zika funding go through uninhibited would still leave the potential for Republican resistance in the U.S. House.
"It's been disturbing to see that the leadership of this Congress has done so many things to impede access to basic health care, including family planning," said Richards. "The [Centers for Disease Control] has been very clear about the importance of women, particular in areas where there's a high incidence of potential exposure, women to have access to family planning services. So I hope, I hope desperately that Washington has heard that word and will now move ahead."
(© 2016 KVUE)