WASHINGTON – Rep. Eliot Engel spoke at an event addressing global Zika epidemic. He called for adequate federal funding to be provided to women to receive the healthcare needed to combat the disease.

The event discussed how the epidemic is shaping the sexual and reproductive health agenda at the Wilson Center with a panel of healthcare professionals.

The Zika virus is a disease that is primarily caused by the bite of a mosquito. It can lead to fever, rash, joint pain, and red eyes. While the virus is usually not fatal, a pregnant woman contracting it could give birth to a baby suffering from microcephaly or other brain defects.

Rep. Engel, D-N.Y., said all women need to have proper access to health care so they can make good decisions about protecting their health.

“We have to make sure, first of all, that we put up adequate funding to do research and to do prevention,” Engel said. “We have to make sure…that women have access to women’s health (care) and that they have access to doctors that can provide them with contraception and other things that they may want to have.”

Since the Zika outbreak in Brazil last year, the virus has spread to over 30 countries. Zika is not only spread through a mosquito bite but also through sexual intercourse.

Engel said woman should not be denied the opportunity to make positive choices about their health “because they’re poor or they live in a country where they don’t have access to it.

“If we’re going to beat the Zika virus, it means that there will have to be, in my opinion, informed choices and contraceptive choices for women to make.”