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Nearly $2 Billion Requested to Keep Zika Virus from Spreading


The Obama administration is hoping to fast-track $1.8 billion to fight the fast-spreading Zika virus.

Health officials are hoping to aggressively combat the mosquito-borne disease before the insect population becomes larger and more active in the spring and summer.

World health authorities believe the Zika virus has caused a spike in microcephaly, a birth defect marked by a small head, in Brazil.

"There appears to be some significant risk for pregnant women and women who are thinking about having a baby," President Barack Obama, speaking in an interview that aired Monday on "CBS This Morning" said.

The president also cautioned against panicking since most people who catch the disease experience mild or no symptoms.

The Pan American Health Organization reports that 26 countries and territories in the Americas are dealing with Zika transmission.

There has not been transmission of the virus by mosquitoes in the United States but some Americans have returned infected after traveling in South America, Central America, the Caribbean and the Pacific Islands.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says it has documented 50 cases among U.S. travelers from December 2015 to February 5, 2016. Officials believe that just one case involved transmission in the United States through sexual contact.

The White House says the funds will be used to expand mosquito control programs, speed vaccine development, create diagnostic tests, and improve support programs for low-income pregnant women in affected countries.

The administration plans to brief congressional leaders on the funding request on Tuesday. The Zika money is separate from the budget for the next fiscal year that the president will submit on Tuesday.

The administration hopes to push the approval process through faster than the regular budget timeline.

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