Sen. Charles Schumer proposed a 3-point plan on Sunday to protect the country against the mosquito-spread Zika virus outbreak in the Americas.
“We need to build a firewall against Zika,” Schumer said. “The government was late to react to Ebola. We don’t want that to happen now. We have to get out front early and get a handle on it, show the public we have a handle on it, and prevent it from spreading.”
The senator called on the U.S. Agency for International Development to increase its involvement in Zika-affected countries, highly concentrated in South and Central America.
He also called on the CDC and National Institutes of Health to promote the development of a vaccine. He then urged the World Health Organization to declare the virus a health emergency at a meeting to discuss the virus in Geneva on Monday.
The Zika virus is transmitted through mosquito bites, and can cause fever, a rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis, or red eyes. It is particularly dangerous for pregnant women — the outbreak in Brazil led to women giving birth to babies with birth defects, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
While Schumer said the spread of the Zika virus doesn’t have the same dangers of an Ebola outbreak, he doesn’t want the government to fall behind on preparation.
“I don’t think it will be as bad as Ebola,” said Schumer. “But the late attack on Ebola, the delayed attack on Ebola should be a lesson.”