President Obama addressed the threat of Zika on Friday, drawing attention to his call for Congress to approve the administration’s $1.9 billion funding request to fight the mosquito-borne disease.
Following a meeting with members of his public health team, including Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell, Director of NIH/NIAID Anthony Fauci, and CDC Director Dr. Tom Frieden, Obama told reporters what would clearly not work to stop the spread of Zika.
This is not something where you can build a wall to prevent,” said Obama. “Mosquitoes can’t go through customs.”
Obama went on to stress how urgent the situation is for young families and those looking to begin families.
The president’s comments came just one day after congress approved a $622 million funding package to fight the disease, which is just a fraction of the $1.9 billion he requested.
According to Obama, approximately 500 people in the continental United States and more than 800 on the island of Puerto Rico have been affected by the mosquito-borne disease. So far, all of these cases are thought to be “travel related.” On Friday, the Centers for Disease Control reported that in the continental U.S., the number of pregnant women infected with Zika has tripled to 157, plus another 122 in the territories.
The president told the House on Friday, that they should forget about going on recess if they fail to get him a bill.
Bottom line is, Congress needs to get me a bill. It needs to get me a bill that has sufficient funds to do the job,” Obama said. “They should not be going off on recess before this is done, and certainly this has to get done over the course of the next several weeks in order to provide confidence to the American people that we’re handling this course of business.”
White House spokesman Eric Schultz said on Friday that “the Senate bill is something that falls short of the president’s funding request,” but he would not say whether or not Obama intends to veto the bill.
We’re more encouraged by what the Senate did, but there’s a long way to go because clearly the House and the Senate are in vastly different places,” he said. “We believe it’s a step in the right direction. We are encouraged by bipartisan support on that front.
But we still continue to urge Congress to fund the president’s request. We feel that anything short of that will be insufficient.”
Leaders from the CDC and the National Institutes of Health warned last week that the dangers posed by Zika may be far more serious than previously thought.
So far, mosquitoes carrying the disease have been confirmed in 30 states. Originally, they had only been discovered in 12 states.
Watch President Obama discuss Zika on Friday here:
Featured image via Drew Angerer/Getty Images