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Obama briefed on rapidly spreading Zika disease

Obama briefed on rapidly spreading Zika disease
© Getty Images

President Obama on Tuesday directed his top health officials to step up public outreach on the Zika virus, a mosquito-borne infection that is now expected to spread across the U.S. 

Obama received a briefing in the White House from health and national security officials including Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Mathews Burwell and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Director Thomas Frieden. 

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He was specifically told about the potential of the Zika virus to enter the U.S. and its effects on countries it has already impacted, as well as travel advisories and guidance for doctors and nurses.

One day earlier, the World Health Organization had said the virus is likely to continue its rapid spread across North America, including the U.S. 

The rare disease, which has infected thousands of people in the Caribbean and Central and South America, has been linked to birth defects in babies.   

The CDC has warned pregnant women in any trimester to avoid travel to areas where Zika virus has been reported — a list that now includes more than 25 countries.

In addition to an educational push, Obama called for more research on diagnostic testing, vaccines and therapeutics, according to a read-out of the meeting provided by the White House late Tuesday.