The Zika virus outbreak that began in 2015 sickened adults, but also had another particularly tragic result—brain defects and other problems in infected fetuses. It represented the first time in more than 50 years that an infectious pathogen had been found to cause birth defects. As the virus spread into the United States, Congress appropriated $932 million to address the growing threat.
We reviewed how agencies have used this money. We found that they attacked the problem on a variety of fronts, including researching the virus, controlling mosquito populations, and raising public awareness about Zika and its prevention.
Biologists sort and examine mosquitoes to help monitor for Zika in Florida
Photograph of mosquitoes under a microscope
What GAO Found
Zika Supplemental Obligations as of September 30, 2017
|In dollars (rounded)|
|HHS agency||Total supplemental funding||Amount obligated||Unobligated balance|
|Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority||245,000,000||245,000,000||0|
|Centers for Disease Control and Prevention||394,000,000||393,706,358||293,642|
|Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services||75,000,000||74,982,493||17,508|
|Health Resources and Services Administration||66,000,000||65,978,442||21,558|
|National Institutes of Health||152,000,000||151,998,591||1,409|
- Awardees told GAO that they used their funding to support such activities as collection of information about individuals affected by the Zika virus (human surveillance), mosquito control activities, laboratory capacity building, public outreach, and health care services. For example, Florida used Zika supplemental funding in its state-run laboratories to purchase materials for testing Zika virus-related specimens.
- A majority of the awardees GAO spoke with reported positive experiences applying for and managing the Zika supplemental funding, including good communication with agency officials and awardees’ familiarity with the mechanisms used to make the awards. However, some awardees noted challenges, such as time frames to use the funding that varied among multiple awards and identifying the activities that could be funded. These challenges added administrative burdens to applying for and managing the Zika supplemental funding while officials were responding to the outbreak, according to the awardees. In October 2017, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) issued a new notice of funding opportunity that agency officials said is intended to help minimize the administrative burden on states and certain localities during emergencies—such as preparing applications—by pre-approving public health departments in these jurisdictions to be eligible to rapidly receive future awards.