Health and Science

Mosquitoes won’t wait for DC to act on Zika virus: Fmr US Ebola czar

US far from ready for Zika threat: Expert
Zika threat fast approaching
The fight against Zika

Congress needs to quit wrangling over funding to fight the Zika virus so the United States can start doing proper mosquito control and accelerate vaccine research, Ron Klain, the nation's former Ebola czar said Wednesday.

The White House has requested $1.9 billion to fund Zika-related health initiatives. The Senate has proposed $1.1 billion, while the House is seeking to allocate $622 million.

The two chambers would have to reach agreement on a spending level before they can send it to President Barack Obama. The Senate will enter negotiations with the House with a strong hand: a bipartisan 68-30 vote in favor of the emergency funds to battle Zika, a virus that has been spreading rapidly through the Americas, with more than 100 confirmed cases in the U.S. state of Florida.

However, the conservative group Heritage Action is lobbying against any Zika funding bill that is not paid for with an equal amount of spending cuts.

"The most important problem is nothing has yet passed," Klain told CNBC's "Squawk Box." "The House has passed a bill. The Senate's passed a bill. They're in a conference committee. The mosquitoes are not going to wait for the conference committee."

With summer just around the corner, mosquito populations will become active, raising the risk the Zika virus will be transmitted within the United States, he said. U.S. cases have thus far been limited to people who were infected with Zika while abroad.

The mosquito-born illness has been linked to birth defects such as microcephaly in children born to infected women.

"We can avoid this tragedy of these babies being born with this horrible disease if we take action now," said Klain, who is now general council at investment firm Revolution.

Southeastern states from Texas to Georgia are most at risk, he said.

State cutbacks on mosquito control have put the United States behind the curve, he added, noting that the work is done part time in some municipalities by sanitation workers.

A vaccine will not hit the market this summer, but could be ready by next summer, he said.

The National Institutes of Health has used money allocated for other projects so it can fund efforts to fight Zika, said Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.

"When you're dealing with an outbreak, if you have to wait for designated funding, then you're going to be behind the 8 ball right away," he told "Squawk Box" in a separate interview Wednesday.

"But we're going to very, very soon run out of capability to do that, and that's the reason we really do need the money the president has asked for," he said.

— Reuters contributed to this story.