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President Obama will ask Congress for $1.8 billion to fight the Zika virus

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President Obama plans to ask Congress for $1.8 billion to help fight the Zika virus. If approved, the emergency funds will be used to support mosquito control programs and vaccine research, as well as health services for pregnant women with low incomes. So far, only a dozen cases of Zika have appeared in the United States, and there's been only one known case of local transmission in Texas. However, additional funds will go to countries that are currently experiencing Zika outbreaks to help stop the spread of transmission.

To support mosquito control programs and vaccine research

The mosquito-borne Zika virus has been expanding rapidly throughout Brazil and nearby countries over the past year, and many are concerned the disease is to blame for the region's recent spike of microcephaly cases — a condition in which a baby is born with an abnormally small head. No official link has been made between Zika and the birth defect, but the timing of the outbreak has coincided with more than 4,500 reported cases of microcephaly in Brazil last year. That's up from the 150 cases the country usually sees annually.

Because of this, the World Health Organization labeled the outbreak as a "public health emergency of international concern." That label is meant to draw global attention to the problem. The WHO estimates that more than 4 million people in Central and South America could be infected with the virus by the end of the year if no intervention efforts are made.