Casinos and other tourism businesses are calling on Congress to pass legislation that would pump additional funding into efforts to combat the Zika virus.
The American Gaming Association joined with the U.S. Travel Association and more than 100 other organizations and businesses in a letter urging lawmakers to make funding Zika efforts a priority. It says failing to act quickly will jeopordize both health and the health of the US economy.
Whitaker Askew is vice president of government relations for the American Gaming Association.
"It is our job to go and fight for funding to ensure that consumers who enter into the state of Mississippi - and, quite frankly, states across the country - can enjoy the first class entertainment experience that our members are proud to offer, with the peace of mind of ensuring that states and localities are doing everything they can to combat this growing threat posed by the Zika virus," Askew says.
The gaming association represents six casino groups in Mississippi, including MGM Resorts International, another signer of the letter.
Legislation that would have provided $1.1 billion for Zika efforts has stalled in the U.S. Senate several times over provisions concerning Planned Parenthood.
Dr. Thomas Gellhaus is president of the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. He says funding is needed for research, testing and other areas.
"Just last week, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases reported there are no funds left to develop a vaccine," he said during a call with reporters on Tuesday. "In fact, if funding is not passed before the new fiscal year on Oct. 1, new Zika activities will not be initiated."
Lawmakers and others are hopeful the Zika funding will be included in a short-term spending bill that would keep the government running through Dec. 9.
In Mississippi, 21 cases of the virus have been reported so far, all in travelers who had recently returned from Zika-affected countries.