WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today made the following statement on the Zika virus:
“We shouldn't allow the ongoing uncertainty surrounding the Zika virus to spark a panic. Domestic and international health experts are taking this issue seriously, and I'm committed to working in Congress to ensure that this outbreak is dealt with quickly and competently.
“President Obama's recent meeting with top U.S. health officials and today's announcement by the World Health Organization (WHO) of an emergency meeting on Zika are good steps. I encourage continued efforts to address the issue head-on. This challenge will require enhanced research, substantial resources, interagency cooperation, and coordinated efforts to ensure that clear information reaches the public as quickly as possible. I have long called for increased engagement with our partners in the Americas, and at this difficult time, the United States must assist our neighbors as they continue to fight the Zika virus.”
Cases of the Zika virus have been reported in more than 20 countries throughout South and Central America and the Caribbean, as well as Puerto Rico and the United States Virgin Islands. While this mosquito-borne infection is common in other parts of the world, Zika has only recently appeared in the Western Hemisphere. As a result, most lack the immunity needed to ward off infection.
News on Zika’s spread has centered primarily on a concurrent uptick in cases of microcephaly, a condition that causes infants to be born with abnormally small heads and significant brain defects. While health officials have yet to confirm the link between Zika and microcephaly in infants whose mothers were infected during pregnancy, the apparent correlation has incited widespread concern and varied instructions for pregnant women.