President Obama sought to assure Americans that the spread of the Zika virus should not evoke the panic that has accompanied past public health scares.
“The good news is this is not like Ebola, people don’t die of Zika,” Obama told “CBS This Morning” co-anchor Gayle King that aired Monday. “A lot of people get it and don’t even know that they have it. What we now know, though, is that there appears to be some significant risk for pregnant women or women who are thinking about getting pregnant.”
The White House said on Monday that it plans to request $1.8 billion in funding from Congress for Zika response efforts and research. Cases of the infection, one of which was believed to have been transmitted sexually, surfaced in Texas earlier this month.
“We don’t know exactly what the relations there are, but there’s enough correlation that we have to take this very seriously,” Obama said. “And so we are going to be putting up a legislative proposal to Congress to resource both the research on vaccines and diagnostics but also helping in terms of public health systems.”
The Obama administration has been pressed by politicians on both sides of the aisle to forcefully respond to the virus, especially in light of its handling of the fatal Ebola pandemic in 2014. While the president said that the White House was addressing the Zika virus earnestly, Obama repeatedly emphasized that he thought Americans should not be overly alarmed.
“There shouldn’t be panic on this. This is not something where people are going to die from it. It is something that we have to take seriously.”