BOSTON, Feb 17 (Reuters) - Maine’s combative Republican Governor, Paul LePage, drew jeers at a town hall meeting this week when he blamed asylum seekers for bringing the “ziki fly,” an apparent reference to the mosquito-borne Zika virus, local media reported on Wednesday.
A Tea Party favorite now in his second term in office, LePage has drawn attention for an off-the-cuff speaking style. In the past, he has blamed out-of-state drug dealers for impregnating “white girls,” calling climate change a “scam” and labeling legislators “corrupt.”
“Asylum seekers, I think the biggest problem in our state, and I’ll explain that to you,” LePage told a town hall meeting in Freeport late Tuesday, the Maine Public Broadcasting Network reported. “What happens is you get hepatitis C, tuberculosis, AIDS, HIV, the ‘ziki fly,’ all these other foreign type of diseases that find a way to our land.”
The crowd jeered LePage’s remarks, MPBN reported.
The mosquitoes that are capable of carrying the Zika virus, which can also transmit diseases such as dengue and chikungunya, are not currently found in Maine, according to the state’s Department of Health and Human Services.
Zika virus, a mosquito-borne virus, has been linked to severe birth defects in Brazil and has spread to 39 countries.
The Zika outbreak is affecting large parts of Latin America and the Caribbean and is likely to spread to all countries in the Americas except for Canada and Chile, the World Health Organization has said. Scientists have investigated two cases of suspected sexual transmission of the disease in the United States.
Much remains unknown about Zika, including whether the virus actually causes microcephaly. Brazil is investigating the potential link between Zika infections and more than 4,400 suspected cases of microcephaly, a condition marked by abnormally small head size that can result in developmental problems. Researchers have confirmed more than 500 of these cases as microcephaly and identified evidence of Zika infection in 41 of these cases, but have not proven that Zika can cause microcephaly.
Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by David Gregorio