AFT passes resolution on combatting spread of Zika virus

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In response to the explosive spread of Zika virus in Latin America, the AFT passed a resolution on Feb. 18 to leverage its resources as the second-largest union of nurses and health professionals in the fight against the spread of the virus.

"Nurses and healthcare providers are on the frontlines of every healthcare issue—from patient care to public health emergencies. Zika is now one of those emergencies. They need the resources to educate the public and be prepared to identify and properly treat this virus," says AFT President Randi Weingarten. "It is our responsibility to ensure all nurses and healthcare providers have the training, resources and equipment to safely treat patients."

The resolution, passed by the AFT's executive council, outlines a plan for the creation and dissemination of materials for health professionals and communities to outline the facts, detail the knowledge gaps, and link members to the most up-to-date materials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization, research experts and others. Because mosquito-borne diseases are uncommon in the United States, there is a high risk of this virus being misunderstood if it does spread.

On Feb. 24, the AFL-CIO's executive council passed a policy statement on Zika, pledging to work with its affiliates to combat the Zika virus, address crucial health needs and reverse years of neglect and underdevelopment in healthcare infrastructure."We thought this issue was important enough to bring to the AFL-CIO, which has many unions representing the same kinds of workers as the AFT, whose members are touched by this potential crisis," said Lorretta Johnson, AFT's secretary-treasurer and an AFL-CIO executive council member.

The AFT resolution also calls for ongoing advocacy at local, state and federal levels to ensure that frontline health providers receive proper education, support and protection from contagious diseases.

The resolution urges reinvestment in America's healthcare infrastructure. Cuts to federal, state and local budgets have led to shortfalls in research and preparedness, equipment and training. Combined with inadequate staffing and training caused by hospital privatization and consolidation, gaps in our health infrastructure leave Americans—and especially frontline health workers—unnecessarily at risk.

[AFT press release]

For more information

Read an AFT fact sheet about the Zika virus.