The Zika virus appears to have sprung out of nowhere, but has since taken over Central and South America and is now making it’s way across the United States. In light of the strange new virus, which has been officially deemed a sexually transmitted illness, Republicans have been pushing President Obama to use funds set aside for Ebola research to fight off Zika virus instead. This suggestion may not be too far off.
Ebola is a large epidemic which is gradually getting smaller as researchers discover new ways of treating it and scientists suggest ways of preventing its spread. However, for as long as Ebola has existed; the major threat was always to the continent of Africa and connected areas. This includes places like France, where the African population is great, but for the most part, excludes places like the United States. In the case of the Zika virus, the illness lingering in America’s backyard is a much bigger menace.
A major difference between the threat of Ebola and of Zika Virus is that governing bodies have noticed a bigger urgency in the need for research in Zika virus. Ebola was announced as a regional emergency at first by the World Health Organization (WHO), whereas Zika virus was almost immediately labeled as a global emergency. This in some way proves that Zika virus is more important to the United States, and therefore, may deserve more funding for research. Unfortunately, the White House disagrees.
In a statement on Friday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest explained that the United States still has a reason to fear Ebola and the government, therefore, has a duty to fight it.
“The important work that the United States has done to fight Ebola and to protect the American people from Ebola is not done. It’s critically important that we follow through on those efforts, and it would be profoundly unwise to take money away from the ongoing effort that’s needed to fight Ebola.”
Just how much money is in question? The United States government allocated a budget of $1.4 billion to combat Ebola back in 2014, according to The Hill. In over a year, America has only used 10 percent of those funds. With signs that Zika virus is present in the United States becoming evident in the country’s maternity wards, Hal Rodgers, a Republican House Appropriations Committee member believes that State Department is not using the available funds in the best way possible.
“These funds can and should be prioritized to meet the most pressing needs of mounting a rapid and full response to Zika.”
In the few months in which knowledge about the existence of Zika virus has spread throughout the world, very little information about the virus has been revealed. Unlike Ebola, Americans and citizens in other nations don’t know what they can do to prevent themselves from contracting Zika and doctors, still do not know how to treat people who have it.
The lack of knowledge about the Zika virus has led to unforeseen taboos, like the Pope blessing the use of contraceptives to prevent the spread of Zika virus among the Catholic population. Still, the White House feels that Zika virus should take a back seat to Ebola. Some feel, that this is a misguided decision.
In the United States, there have been about 50 reported cases of Ebola. In total, there were over 1,000 cases of Ebola worldwide. All of the Ebola cases in the U.S. were linked to recent travel abroad. Zika virus is not as distant and the cause of a North American Zika virus epidemic could be a simple as a mosquito crossing U.S.-Mexico border.
Rodgers considers the White House decision to continue funding Ebola even though Zika virus is spreading quicker and has already infected many U.S. citizens, to be wrong. Still he asserts that it should not cause a fight between parties and instead Republicans and Democrats should put their head together to find solutions to the obvious Zika virus problem.
“There’s no reason that something like keeping the American people safe from the Zika virus should be some sort of partisan fight.”
[Feature image via nicholas_/GettyImages]