14:26 GMT23 September 2020
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    US Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan said that the Obama administration calls on the Congress to take immediate action to provide the full requested amount of more than $1 billion to fight the Zika virus.

    WASHINGTON (Sputnik) — The Obama administration has identified more than half a billion dollars of existing Ebola resources to fight the Zika virus, but is calling on the US Congress to free up more funding prevent it from spreading, Office of Management and Budget Director Shaun Donovan said during a press briefing on Wednesday.

    "Nearly two months have passed and the situation continues to grow more critical," Donovan warned. "Today, we reiterate our call on the Congress to take immediate action to provide the full requested amount [of more than $1 billion], but in the absence of congressional action, we must scale up Zika preparedness and response activities right now."

    Donovan explained that the Obama administration had identified $589 million, including $510 million of existing Ebola resources within the departments of State and Health and Human Services and the US Agency for International Development that can be redirected "to scale up the urgent work necessary to address Zika."

    The budget director however, warned that the repurposed funds were "not enough" to support a comprehensive Zika response and could only be used temporarily until Congress acts on the administration’s emergency supplemental request of over $1.8 billion it asked for in February.

    Department of Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Burwell said that her agency predicts local transmissions will likely spread in the continental US in the coming months.

    As of April 1, 672 Zika cases have been confirmed across the country and in US territories.

    Deputy State Secretary for Management and Resources Heather Higginbottom said it was critical that Mosquito surveillance and control activities to start immediately before the summer months, which is peak season for mosquitos in the United States.

    "A lack of funding could result in halting or limiting these efforts during a very critical timeframe and of course would increase the risk of more Americans contracting the virus," Higginbottom said.

    The current Zika outbreak started in Brazil in the spring of 2015. It has since spread across Latin America, with cases reported in several European countries, the Pacific and the United States. There is no available vaccine against the Zika virus, which has been linked to severe brain damage and underdevelopment in newborn babies, known as microcephaly.


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