President Barack Obama is asking Congress for more than $1.8 billion to fight the Zika virus in the United States and other countries.
The White House said Monday that most of the money would be spent in the United States on programs to combat the virus, which is spread by mosquitos. These initiatives include mosquito control programs, vaccine research and health care services for low-income pregnant women.
President Barack Obama urged calm in an interview that aired on Monday. “The good news is this is not like Ebola, people don’t die of Zika. A lot of people get it and don’t even know they have it,” he told CBS News. “But there shouldn’t be panic on this, this is not something where people are going to die from it. It is something we have to take seriously.”
Spread of Zika virus
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is the top federal public health agency. It has reported 50 cases of Zika among U.S. travelers from December 2015 to February 2016.
In the latest outbreak, Brazil reported the first case of Zika virus in May 2015. The Pan American Health Organization said 26 countries and territories in the Americas have reported cases of the virus since.
Last week, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared Zika a global health emergency. The global health organization also predicts that Zika could infect as many as 4 million people in the Americas this year.
Zika causes no symptoms in 80 percent of people who are infected and only mild symptoms in people who fall ill.
Scientists believe it can cause microcephaly, a birth defect that causes babies to have abnormally small heads and problems with learning. U.S. health officials said their greatest concern is for pregnant women who develop Zika.
The Zika virus is a disease transmitted by Aedes mosquitoes. There is no specific treatment or vaccine currently available. But drug companies in India, Japan and France announced that they are working to develop possible vaccines.
I’m Mary Gotschall.
Mary Gotschall adapted this story for Learning English from VOANews.com and other sources. Hai Do was the editor.
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Words in This Story
mosquito – n. a small flying insect that bites the skin of people and animals and sucks their blood
symptom – n. a change in the body or mind which indicates that a disease is present
panic – n. a situation that causes many people to become afraid and to rush to do something — usually singular
territory – n. an area of land that belongs to or is controlled by a government