House Republicans: Zika travel alert is not strong enough

House Republicans: Zika travel alert is not strong enough
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A group of 17 House Republicans is calling on the Obama administration to strengthen its travel warnings to countries hit hard by the Zika virus so as to advise against “nonessential” travel to the countries. 

The lawmakers, led by House Science Committee Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas), pointed to the World Health Organization’s declaration of Zika as a public health emergency of international concern, as well as other indications of the seriousness of the virus. 

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

The lawmakers say cutting down on Americans’ travel to the most affected countries, including Brazil, Colombia, Venezuela and others, would help reduce instances of the virus being carried back to the U.S. 

“If Americans continue to believe it is safe to travel to countries where the Zika virus is rampant, more will return home with infections,” the letter states. 

The warnings come as the White House has for months pressured congressional Republicans to approve new funding to fight the virus. 

Democrats denounced a Zika funding bill put forward by Republicans last week because it would be paid for by cuts to Ebola funding and ObamaCare and would restrict funding to Planned Parenthood and other family planning groups.