Washington D.C. – The Obama administration will ask Congress for more than $1.8 billion to combat Zika, which has been declared a global health emergency by the World Health Organization (WHO). Officials said Monday that efforts must be made to investigate and mitigate the recent outbreaks abroad in order to prevent the spread of the virus at home.

The administration said in a statement that no case of Zika has been transmitted directly within the continental United States. There is no reason to panic but spring and summer mosquito seasons are coming and officials want to be prepared to fight the virus, even though they do not expect a major outbreak in the country because similar viruses, like dengue fever, have been controlled in the most vulnerable regions.

The Obama administration will ask Congress for more than $1.8 billion to combat Zika. Credit: Micromix-mexico.com

Still, Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said “we never assume the least. We always assume the worst.” He told reporters that the institute had already started to develop the vaccine and that he expected they would be in phase 1 trial by the end of the summer.

The group at highest risk is that of pregnant women and their babies. The Zika virus is thought to be linked to microcephaly, a rare congenital condition that leads to head and brain irregularities. Brazil, the most affected country in the Americas, has seen a raise in devastating birth outcomes apparently caused by the mosquito-borne virus.

The most vulnerable parts of the United States are Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, Hawaii, American Samoa and the U.S. Virgin Islands, since large populations of the mosquito species are settled there.

Most of the money the Obama administration is asking Congress, $828 million, would be assigned to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Other $250 million would go to a one-year increase in Medicaid funds for Puerto Rico, where the spread of the virus has been significant.

The request also includes $200 million for the National Institute of Health and the Food and Drug Administration to develop a vaccine against Zika and accelerate testing techniques for the disease. As a prevention, if new outbreaks appear in the United States, the administration is requesting $210 million for a new fund to respond to the disease.

The rest of the money would be destined to help other countries fight the virus, including $335 million for the U.S. Agency for International Development and $41 million for the State Department to respond to outbreaks in South America, Central America and the Caribbean.

Source: Washington Post