NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Mayor Mitch Landrieu testified before congressional Democrats Thursday asking for more federal funding to fight the Zika virus.
Landrieu said it's not a matter of if but when the U.S. sees a Zika outbreak as summer approaches.
"With mosquitoes soon reaching their peak season we have a big-time sense of emergency, so the message is now not later," Landrieu said.
Landrieu testified before the U.S. House of Representatives Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. He supports the president's request for $1.9 billion in emergency federal funding to fight the Zika virus.
While the city has come up with a Zika plan, the mayor says more federal resources are needed.
"We are very thankful that at this time there are no locally transmitted cases of Zika virus in New Orleans and only four travel-related cases of Zika virus have been reported in Louisiana, but regardless, our mentality has to be it's not a matter of if but when, and again, now not later," Landrieu said.
Tulane Associate Professor of Tropical Medicine Dawn Wesson agrees.
"If you think about the fact that only about one in five cases of Zika actually have any symptoms at all, if those people that were diagnosed here in the state had symptoms, that means there's probably quite a few more that have been walking around with the potential to infect local mosquitoes," Wesson said. "So,I think as the season goes on, as our mosquito populations increase, that risk is going to increase."
Wesson is closely monitoring the virus and is studying how good our local mosquitoes will be at transmitting it.
"Our local mosquito control facility and their personnel are stretched to the limit just taking care of what they have to take care of now. I think additional resources that could potentially help fund either additional personnel or extra hours of existing personnel are really important not only for New Orleans, but across the state and the region," Wesson said.
Landrieu urged lawmakers to approve the president's request for funding, saying it's necessary to respond to the public health threat.
"This is a national crisis and it's going to require resources to fill the truck up, to spray, or to hire the employees to go out to inspect communities,"said Landrieu.
New Orleans has both species of mosquitoes that transmit Zika. Wesson and her team at Tulane should know next month the results of their study to see how good our mosquitoes are at transmitting it.