Seventeen members of Congress, including two powerful committee chairmen from Texas, have asked President Obama to raise travel warnings to Level 3 for countries with high levels of the Zika virus.
Science, Space, and Technology Chairman Lamar Smith (R-TX), Ways and Means Chairman Kevin Brady (R-TX), and fifteen other U.S. representatives signed a letter on Friday asking President Obama to “Immediately raise the travel warnings to Level 3” for the nations of Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela, Martinique, Honduras, and other countries where the Zika virus is a threat. The letter follows a hearing in May held by the Science, Space, and Technology Committee chaired by Representative Smith.
During the May 25 hearing, shown in the video below, witnesses stated that all cases of people in the United States who have tested positive for the Zika virus are travel-related. The witnesses also explained that stricter travel advisories should be implemented and that all non-essential travel to these areas should be avoided.
“Despite these concerns, and the fact that there still remains much about the Zika virus that deserves study, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued only Level Two travel alerts, which advise travelers only to ‘practice enhanced precautions,’” the representatives wrote in the letter attached below. “It has not issued any Level Three warnings to ‘avoid nonessential travel,’ as it did with the Ebola virus in West Africa.”
The letter also stated, “If Americans continue to believe it is safe to travel to countries where the Zika virus is rampant, more will return home with infections. This increases the risks for all of us, whether we travel abroad or not, because if a mosquito bites a person who has carried Zika into the U.S., that mosquito can infect every other person it bites.”
The congressional leaders wrote other precautions are already being taken in the U.S. because of the Zika threat. As an example, the representatives wrote that couples who are seeking fertility treatments are required to wait two to six months after returning from a country on the Center for Disease Control’s Zika list. The American Red Cross has also implemented restrictions on blood donations from people who have been traveling to those countries. This step was taken in accordance with Food and Drug Administration.
They also stated the travel restrictions are necessary because the “potential impact of the Zika virus on Americans’ health and welfare could be profound.”
Following the committee’s hearing in May, 150 prominent members of the science, academia, and public health community sent a letter to the director of the World Health Organization expressing apprehension about the global health implications from travel to countries like Brazil. That letter stated the “Brazilian strain of Zika virus harms health in ways that science has not observed before.”
The Congressional letter closes, stating, “Given the risks associated with the Zika virus, we request that you immediately raise the travel warnings to Level 3 for Brazil, Columbia, Venezuela, Martinique, and Honduras, and other countries as appropriate.”
In addition to the two chairmen from Texas, the letter was also signed by Representatives Frank D Lucas (R-OK), Dana Rohrabacher (R-CA), Jeff Miller (R-FL), Dr. Michael Burgess (R-TX), Randy Neugebauer (R-TX), Randy Hultgren (R-IL), Bill Posey (R-FL), Randy Weber (R-TX), Scott Tipton (R-CO), John Moolenaar (R-MI), Steve Knight (R-CA), Brian Babin (R-TX), Barry Loudermilk (R-GA), Ralph Lee Abraham (R-LA), and Roger Williams, (R-TX).
Breitbart Texas has reported extensively on the impact of the Zika virus in the Lone Star State. Merrill Hope reported last week that ten women had tested positive for Zika in the Dallas area alone. Because of the threat of mosquitoes picking up the virus from an infected human and then spreading it to others, Microsoft chose Houston as a test project for a new high-technology mosquito trap designed to capture and study only those insects known to carry the virus.