Mar 13, 2003
Press Release

(Washington, D.C.): The House of Representatives passed legislation today to combat the West Nile virus. The Mosquito Abatement for Safety and Health (MASH) Act (H.R. 342) establishes federal grant and assessment programs to assist local authorities in operating strong mosquito control programs.

Rep. Carolyn Maloney (Queens, Manhattan) was an early cosponsor of the bill, introduced by Congressman Christopher John of Louisiana, a region where a significant number of West Nile infections were recorded last year. The MASH Act builds upon the substantial funding increase included in the fiscal year 2003 omnibus appropriations bill (PL 108-007). Specifically, $37 million for the Infectious Diseases Division of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) was included in the final spending bill, an $8 million increase over fiscal year 2002. These monies will go to states to support research and to strengthen surveillance, prevention, and control of West Nile virus. Congressman Joseph Crowley (Bronx, Queens) has also been one of the leaders on the funding increase effort.

Rep. Maloney and Rep. Crowley both represent portions of the Queens area where the West Nile virus was first identified in 1999. As of January 29, 2003, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the number of human cases of West Nile virus infection reported in the United States continued to rise to 4,007, with 263 of those cases resulting in death. New York has been among the regions hardest hit with five deaths among 82 people becoming infected during last summer's outbreak.

"West Nile virus has been a New York concern, and now it's a national concern, so it's great to have a unified Congress taking initiative in the fight to prevent outbreaks of the disease," said Rep. Maloney.

"The mosquito-borne West Nile virus is a real threat and an ongoing concern that must be managed properly, with detailed planning and significant community outreach. We're taking the right step in offering local authorities assistance in the development and implementation of West Nile virus prevention programs."

The MASH Act establishes a matching grant program through the CDC to assist localities in creating and/or maintaining a mosquito control program. Under the bill, the federal government would provide a 2 for 1 match (up to $100,000) for the creation or maintenance of a program. Through H.R. 342, states will also have the opportunity to play an active role in planning and coordinating these abatement programs. The bill now awaits Senate action.