Zika virus is transmitted to people primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito, the mosquitoes that alos spread dengue and chikungunya viruses.

Administration Designates Emergency Zika Funding

The Obama administration has identified $589 million in funding that will go toward Zika preparedness and response -- mosquito control, lab capacity, developing diagnostics and vaccines, supporting affected expectant mothers and babies, and tracking the spread and effects of Zika infections in humans in the United States, Puerto Rico, other U.S. territories, and abroad.

The Obama administration has identified $589 million in funding that will go toward Zika preparedness and response -- mosquito control, lab capacity, developing diagnostics and vaccines, supporting affected expectant mothers and babies, and tracking the spread and effects of Zika infections in humans in the United States, Puerto Rico, other U.S. territories, and abroad, even as the administration renewed its call April 6 on Congress to approve its request for emergency supplemental funding to combat the virus.

"The Administration is committed to taking every step necessary, as quickly as possible, to protect the American people from the Zika virus. That’s why we submitted to Congress a request for emergency supplemental funding in February to fortify our efforts to combat and stay ahead of the disease. But Congress has yet to act," Shaun Donovan, director of the Office of Management and Budget, wrote in the April 6 announcement of the action. "Nearly two months have passed and the situation continues to grow more critical. Since we submitted the supplemental request to Congress, we have learned that sexual transmission of the virus is more common than believed; that the potential impact on fetal brain development is starker and more serious than first understood; and that within the United States the geographical range of the Aedis aegypti mosquito far exceeds our initial estimation."

He added that the virus is spreading in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, American Samoa, and abroad, "and there will likely be local mosquito-borne transmission in the continental United States in the upcoming spring and summer months."

Concern also is growing in the public health community that the virus may be causing more serious neurological disorders than have been suspected so far.

"As of last week, 33 countries and territories in the Americas reported active Zika transmission," Donovan wrote. "We continue to call on Congress to take immediate action to provide the full requested amount for the emergency supplemental, but in the absence of Congressional action, we must scale up Zika preparedness and response activities now. Faced with this urgent need, we have identified $589 million – including $510 million of existing Ebola resources within the Department of Health and Human Services and Department of State/USAID – that can quickly be redirected and spent on immediate, time-critical activities such as mosquito control, lab capacity, development of diagnostics and vaccines, supporting affected expectant mothers and babies, tracking and mapping the spread and effects of Zika infections in humans, and other prevention and response efforts in the continental United States, Puerto Rico, other U.S. Territories, and abroad, especially within the Americas."

He said the redirected funds can only temporarily address what is needed until Congress acts on the emergency supplemental request.

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