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    White House Seeks $1.8 Billion to Fight Zika Virus

    Emergency funds from Congress would combat the global health threat, officials say

    WebMD News from HealthDay

    By Dennis Thompson

    HealthDay Reporter

    MONDAY, Feb. 8, 2016 (HealthDay News) -- The Obama administration is seeking $1.8 billion in emergency funds from Congress to combat the threat of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, the White House announced Monday.

    The funding will allow an expansion of mosquito control programs, speed development of a vaccine, develop diagnostic tests and improve support for low-income pregnant women, the Associated Press reported.

    In an interview on CBS Monday morning, President Obama said, "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."

    The White House move followed a World Health Organization (WHO) emergency declaration last week that the Zika virus was now a global health threat, based on the suspicion that the virus may be to blame for thousands of birth defects in Brazil in the past year.

    Though a cause-and-effect link has not been proven, many public health experts fear the virus causes microcephaly, a condition in which babies are born with permanent brain damage and very small heads.

    The U.S. action also followed a new advisory from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that pregnant women with a male sexual partner who has traveled to, or lives in, an area affected by active Zika virus transmission should refrain from sex or use condoms until the pregnancy is over.

    The CDC said the precaution is in place "until we know more" about the dangers of sexual transmission of the virus.

    The Feb. 4 advisory followed a report out of Texas that one confirmed case of Zika virus infection was transmitted through sex, not a mosquito bite.

    Speaking at a Feb. 5 news conference, CDC director Dr. Tom Frieden said the agency is investigating Brazilian research that detected Zika virus in patients' saliva and urine. At this point, however, the CDC's guidance to pregnant women does not include anything about kissing, he said.

    "We're not aware of any prior mosquito-borne disease associated with such a potentially devastating birth outcome on a scale anything like appears to be occurring with Zika in Brazil," Frieden added.

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