President Obama is asking Congress for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funding to help fight the Zika virus. In an announcement Monday, 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. "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. The White House said that as spring and summer approach, the US must prepare to quickly address local transmission within the continental US. Obama added, however, that "there shouldn't be a panic on this."
The Pan American Health Organization reports 26 countries and territories in the Americas with local Zika transmission, reports the AP. To date, there has not been transmission of the Zika virus by mosquitoes within the US, but the CDC reports 50 laboratory-confirmed cases among US travelers to the affected countries from December 2015 to Feb. 5, 2016, the White House said. So far, the only recent case that has been transmitted within the US is believed to have occurred in Texas through sex. Zika usually is transmitted through bites from infected Aedes aegypti mosquitoes, which are common in Florida, along the Gulf Coast, and in states that border Mexico. (Read more Zika virus stories.)