Obama asking Congress for emergency funding to combat Zika

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes sit in a petri dish at the Fiocruz institute in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana)

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama is asking Congress for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funding to help fight the Zika virus. The White House said the money would be used to expand mosquito control programs, speed development of a vaccine, develop diagnostic tests and improve support for low-income pregnant women.

Zika virus disease is mainly spread by mosquitoes. Most people who catch it experience mild or no symptoms. But there are suspicions that the fetus of infected pregnant women may be at risk for a rare birth defect that causes brain damage and an abnormally small head.

“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 aired Monday on “CBS This Morning.”

He added, however, that “there shouldn’t be a panic on this.”

The World Health Organization estimates there could be up to 4 million cases of Zika in the Americas in the next year.

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