Obama requests $1.8B in emergency funding to combat Zika

FEB. 5, 2016 FILE PHOTOPablo Martinez Monsivais/AP

President Obama will ask Congress for more than $ 1.8 billion in emergency funding to tackle the fast-spreading Zika virus both at home and abroad.

Amid an international outbreak, President Obama on Monday requested more than $ 1.8 billion emergency funding to help combat the rapidly expanding Zika virus.

In an announcement Monday, the White House said the money would be used to expand mosquito control programs, speed the development of a vaccine, develop diagnostic tests and improve support for low-income pregnant women.

The Zika virus, which has infected people in 26 countries, presents mild or no symptoms in those who get it, but has been linked to birth defects in children who were born of women who had the virus, generating worldwide worries.

“What we now know is that there appears to be some significant risk for pregnant women and women who are thinking about having a baby,” Obama said in an interview Monday on “CBS This Morning.” The White House said in a separate statement that as spring and summer approach, the U.S. must prepare to quickly address local transmission with the continental U.S.

MARVIN RECINOS/AFP/Getty Images

Zika virus is spread mostly by mosquitoes, although evidence has emerged in recent weeks that it can be transmitted via sex as well.

Zika virus is spread mostly by mosquitoes, although evidence has emerged in recent weeks that it can be transmitted via sex as well.

Obama warned, however, that “there shouldn’t be a panic on this” in the U.S. in his CBS interview.

Under the funding request, about $ 1 billion would be directed to the Department of Health and Human Services to improve laboratory capacity, launch educational programs and establish rapid response teams.

Another $ 250 million would be allocated specifically to Puerto Rico though extra Medicaid funding, while $ 200 million would go toward research and commercialization of new vaccines and diagnostic tests.

The remainder, about $ 335 million, would go to the U.S. Agency for International Development to help affected countries in South America, Central America and the Caribbean provide training to health care workers, stimulate private sector research and help pregnant women gain access to repellant to protect against mosquitoes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, meanwhile, upped its alert level Monday to the highest extent possible “to further enhance its response” to the outbreak.

After a rapid increase in babies born with microcephaly in the Americas, officials are warning people who live or have traveled to the areas affected by Zika to use condoms, or stop having sex.UESLEI MARCELINO/REUTERS

After a rapid increase in babies born with microcephaly in the Americas, officials are warning people who live or have traveled to the areas affected by Zika to use condoms, or stop having sex.

“CDC’s Emergency Operations Center is moving to a Level 1 activation—reflecting the agency’s assessment of the need for an accelerated preparedness to bring together experts to focus intently and work efficiently in anticipation of local Zika virus transmission by mosquitoes in the Continental US,” the center said in a statement.

To date, 26 countries and territories in the Americas have reported transmission of the virus, according to the Pan American Health Organization.

In the U.S., the virus hasn’t yet been transmitted by mosquitoes, but a handful of Americans have returned to the country infected with the virus after traveling in South America, Central America, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands.

With News Wire Services

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barack obama ,
zika virus ,
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