Monday, February 8, 2016 10:38 pm
President Barack Obama will ask the US Congress for more than 1.8 billion dollars in emergency fund to fight Zika at home and abroad and pursue a vaccine, the White House said on Monday.
According to the report, the president also said there is no reason to panic over the mosquito-borne virus.
Zika, spreading rapidly in South and Central America and the Caribbean, has been linked to severe birth defects in Brazil and public health officials’ concern is focused on pregnant women and those who may become pregnant.
Obama’s request to the Congress includes 200 million dollars for research, development and commercialisation of new vaccines and diagnostic tests for the virus.
In a new development, the London-based European Medicines Agency (EMA), Europe’s drugs regulator, said it had formed an expert task force on Zika to advise companies working on vaccines and medicines against the virus.
There are no vaccines or treatment for Zika and none even undergoing clinical studies, as the disease had previously been viewed as relatively benign.
Most infected people develop either no symptoms or mild ones like fever and skin rashes.
“The good news is that this is not like Ebola, people don’t die of Zika. A lot of people get it and don’t even know that they have it. 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,’’ Obama told CBS News in an interview aired on Monday.
Scientists are working to find out if there is a causal link between Zika and babies born with microcephaly, meaning they have abnormally small heads and can suffer developmental problems.
The research began after a huge rise in such birth defects last year in Brazil at the same time the virus took hold there.
Most of the money sought by Obama, who faces pressure from Republicans and some fellow Democrats to act decisively on Zika, would be spent in the United States on testing, surveillance and response in affected areas.