Alarming new information about the Zika virus in the U.S. AP
FILE - In this Jan. 27, 2016, file photo, an Aedes aegypti mosquito is photographed through a microscope at the Fiocruz institute in Recife, Pernambuco state, Brazil. A new study suggests the worrisome Zika virus apparently has been in Brazil at least a year longer than experts previously thought. Some experts have speculated the virus first came to the Americas sometime in 2014. But the new study, led by Brazilian researchers, concludes Zika landed in Brazil a year earlier. (AP Photo/Felipe Dana, File)

The mosquito-borne Zika virus is sparking increased concern in the United States, as the White House is asking Congress for $1.9 billion to combat the potential disease.

“Most of what we’ve learned is not reassuring,” said Doctor Anne Schuchat, the principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Everything we look at with this virus seems to be a bit scarier than we initially thought,” she said.

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The disease, which has been linked to serious birth defects in babies born to mothers who were bit by an infected mosquito during pregnancy, is now also believed to be spread by sexual contact. The geographic spread of the infected mosquitoes is now also expanded from its initial estimation.

“This is a very unusual virus that we can’t pretend to know everything about it that we need to know,” said Doctor Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases. “I’m not an alarmist and most of you who know me know that I am not, but the more we learn about the neurological aspects, the more we look around and say this is very serious,” he said during a White House briefing.

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“We can’t just stop and wait for the money. If we don’t get the money the president has asked for, we’re not going to take it to the point we need,” Fauci said. “When the president asked for $1.9 billion, we needed $1.9 billion.”

Yasmeen Alamiri is a political reporter for Rare. Follow her on Twitter @Yalamiri
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