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"Bottom line is Congress needs to get me a bill," Obama said

Obama said there have been a little more than 500 cases of Zika in the U.S.

Washington CNN —  

President Barack Obama on Friday urged lawmakers to take up his $1.9 billion proposal to combat Zika, suggesting anything less would leave the U.S. vulnerable to the mosquito-borne virus that causes birth defects.

“This is something that is solvable. It is not something that we have to panic about, but it is something we have to take seriously. And if we make a modest investment on the front end, then this is going to be a problem that we don’t have to deal with on the back end,” Obama said following a briefing from public health officials about the virus’ spread in the United States.

Obama said there have been a little more than 500 cases of Zika in the U.S., all of which appear to be travel-related, meaning the infected individual was bitten in another country and traveled back to the U.S. He said there have been 10 cases where the virus was transmitted sexually.

Officials have a plan for the next several months to begin developing a vaccine and improve diagnostic testing, Obama said, adding the federal government is prepared to work with states in the event there are widespread outbreaks of Zika in the U.S. over the summer.

But he insisted those efforts could only move forward if lawmakers approve new funding.

“Bottom line is Congress needs to get me a bill,” Obama said. “It needs to get me a bill that has sufficient funds to do the job. 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 for us to be able to provide confidence to the American people that we’re handling this piece of business.”