WASHINGTON TIMES — Avoid all nonessential travel to countries with endemic Zika. That was the key message from scientific experts at a hearing the House Science, Space and Technology Committee held on May 25.
We should heed their advice. Thus far, every Zika case in the continental United States has been attributed to travel-associated exposure. Although there have been around 1,300 locally acquired infections reported in American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, Zika cases reported in the mainland United States are infections picked up while traveling outside our country.
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. If a mosquito bites a person who has carried Zika into the United States, that mosquito can infect every other person it bites. This is how epidemics spread.
During the Science Committee’s hearing, I asked our witnesses about the risks posed by travel to countries where Zika infection rates are highest.
• Why has the administration not raised the travel alert level for countries with the highest number of Zika infections, such as Brazil and Colombia?
• Is the administration so worried about attendance at the Olympic Games in Brazil this summer that it is willing to endanger American lives by not providing better warnings?
No one has answers to these questions. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has issued only Level 2 travel alerts, which advise travelers to only “practice enhanced precautions.” It has not issued any Level 3 warnings to “avoid nonessential travel,” as it did with the Ebola epidemic in West Africa.
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