White House Asks for $1.8 Billion to Fight Zika Virus

Infection threatens Olympic Games in Rio

The Obama administration is asking Congress for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funding to fight the Zika virus in the U.S. and other countries, according to a Reuters report.

The money would be divided among the Department of Health and Human Services, the Agency for International Development, and the State Department to support mosquito-control programs, vaccine research, and health services for low-income pregnant women.

In related news, U.S. athletes and staff have been advised to skip the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in August if they are concerned for their health over the Zika virus. The message was delivered in a conference call involving United States Olympic Committee (USOC) officials and leaders of U.S. sport federations in late January, Reuters reported.

Federations were told that no one should go to Brazil “if they don't feel comfortable going. Bottom line,” according to Donald Anthony, president and board chairman of USA Fencing.

Alan Ashley, chief of sport performance at the USCOC, did not respond to emails or phone calls from Reuters requesting comment.

Zika outbreaks have been reported in 33 countries, most of them in the Americas. Symptoms of infection often are mild––but the outbreak in Brazil that began last year has been linked to more than 4,000 cases of suspected microcephaly. The link to Zika is unproven but strongly suspected. In El Salvador, which is experiencing outbreaks of the virus, women have been advised to postpone pregnancy until 2018.

Rio de Janeiro is expecting more than 380,000 tourists to attend the Olympic Games.

Sources: Reuters; February 8, 2016; and Reuters; February 8, 2016.