Washington, D.C. –  Today 17 Members of the House of Representatives, led by Science, Space, and Technology Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), sent a letter to President Barack Obama requesting that travel warnings be raised for countries where the Zika virus is widespread.

The Committee held a hearing last month on ways to combat the spread of the Zika virus. At the hearing, expert witnesses testified that so far all Zika cases in the continental United States had been attributed to travel-associated exposure to the virus. Witnesses also testified that stricter travel advisories should be implemented and all non-essential travel to areas with high levels of infection should be avoided.

The letter states, “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.”

In February, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika a Public Health Emergency of International Concern. This declaration is reserved for a situation that is “serious, unusual or unexpected; carries implications for public health beyond the affected State’s national border; and may require immediate international action.” Since then, 150 prominent individuals with scientific, academic and other public health backgrounds sent a letter to the WHO Director asserting the “Brazilian strain of Zika virus harms health in ways that science has not observed before.”

“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.’  It has not issued any Level Three warnings to ‘avoid nonessential travel,’ as it did with the Ebola virus in West Africa.”

U.S. residents need their government to provide accurate information about the potential risks of travelling to countries such as Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela, Martinique, Honduras and others with high levels of the Zika virus. 

Today’s letter can be found HERE