The Zika virus is creeping into politics, with Republicans beginning to question whether the Obama administration is doing enough to protect the public from an outbreak.
Fears about the virus grew Tuesday when it was announced that the virus has been transmitted sexually in Dallas — the same city where a scare over the Ebola virus began in 2014.
Around the same time, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) delivered a warning about “having the kind of feeling across the country that we’re sort of reacting too late, like we did on Ebola.”
Speaker Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) also discussed the virus during his face-to-face meeting with President Obama on Tuesday.
Zika, which is mainly transmitted through mosquito bites, isn’t deadly like Ebola. Four out of five people who get it have no symptoms; the rest have mild symptoms including fever or rash that last up to a week.
The real concern is for pregnant women, because the virus has been linked to a serious birth defect called microcephaly, in which a baby’s head is abnormally small. The defect is associated with intellectual disabilities and delayed development.
Republican strategists say it’s too early to tell whether the Zika outbreak will create a political uproar similar to the one around Ebola.
“If it gets tied into illegal immigration and travel visas, then the Republicans may have something,” said Republican strategist Ford O’Connell, though he cautioned that Zika appears to be less dangerous and frightening than Ebola.