Zika Virus Confirmed In North Carolina, Will It Shape The Republican Primary?

The first case of Zika virus in North Carolina was reported this week, just ahead of the Republican primary and the Democratic caucus in that state. It’s the first case of travel-related Zika virus for North Carolina, and the Department of Health and Human Services stated that a resident who recently traveled outside the country has contracted the virus, reports ABC 11. The North Carolina Department of Health declined to give any details about the patient in question, not naming which country outside the United States he or she traveled to.

The North Carolina Health Department released a statement today, hoping to assuage concerns that the Zika virus will spread or cause the kind of public health emergency it has in Central and South America.

“As long as the outbreak continues in Central and South America and the Caribbean, we expect to see more travel related Zika virus infections in our state. While travel-related cases don’t present a public health threat to North Carolina, we always actively monitor emerging global situations and adjust resources to meet needs,” said Dr. Randall Williams, the North Carolina Health Director.

As the Inquisitr reported previously, the Zika virus is the prime suspect in a spate of birth defects among newborns in Brazil. While it has not been confirmed that Zika virus is the culprit, the increase in the number of microcephalic births has grown steadily with the number of confirmed Zika cases in affected countries. While the United States has seen a few cases here and there, the CDC tells the New York Times that only pregnant women are particularly at risk.

It’s worth noting that past Zika virus outbreaks haven’t seen a rise in microcephaly among newborns. Further, North Carolina health officials have stated that only one case of Zika transmission has occurred in the United States, in Texas, through sexual transmission.

“We have anticipated all along that travel-related cases would be identified in North Carolina, we want to take this opportunity to reinforce that travelers to any of the countries with active Zika transmission should follow precautions to minimize their exposure to mosquito bites,” said Dr. Megan Davies, the state Epidemiologist for North Carolina.

According to a blog post on Slate, congressional Republicans are urging women whose unborn children may have been exposed to Zika virus to accept the potential outcome — birth defects including microcephaly — instead of turning to abortion or contraception.

Representative Jeff Duncan of South Carolina criticized human rights leaders for their suggestion that women in affected countries use contraception or abortion to prevent cases of microcephaly in Zika exposed fetuses.

“This push for more abortion access is heartbreaking, especially since there are different degrees of microcephaly, [some children] go on to lead very normal lives,” Duncan said in a congressional hearing last week. “Each child is made in the image of God and has inherent worth.”

Ahead of the North Carolina Republican primary, the Zika virus may just make its way into the political discourse. Forbes reports that Zika fears may be fueling some of the support enjoyed by Republican candidates like Donald Trump.

“Trump, or whoever takes up the mantle of wall-building should his campaign falter, is trying to make America great by making the rest of the non-American world into a bunch of drug-selling criminal rapists along with a few good people just to protect credibility. He’s made the entire world into the Zika virus, something to be feared and excluded,” writes Todd Essig for Forbes.

Whether or not the Zika virus case in North Carolina will make its way into the heated rhetoric from campaigns on both sides of the aisle remains to be seen.

[Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images]