By Jordan Fabian - 02/08/16 07:50 AM EST
President Obama says that the Zika virus that is spreading quickly across the Western Hemisphere is not as dangerous as Ebola, but is stressing on his administration is taking it seriously.
The White House announced Monday it is asking for $1.8 billion in emergency funding to beef up Zika response efforts and research.
"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 president said.
"But there shouldn't be panic on this, this is not something where people are going to die from it," he added. "It is something we have to take seriously."
While health officials are still determining the exact link between the virus and birth defects, Obama said "there appears to be some significant risk for pregnant women or women who are thinking about getting pregnant."
Obama is under pressure from Republicans and Democrats in Congress to respond aggressively to the virus.
The first two known cases on the U.S. mainland were found earlier this month in Texas. Puerto Rico's governor recently declared a state of emergency after 22 confirmed cases were reported.
Obama is looking to avoid a repeat of 2014, when he came under criticism for his administration's sluggish response to the deadly Ebola pandemic.
In the interview, Obama also expressed "concern" about North Korea's weekend launch of a long-range missile.
"I think we have been concerned about North Korea's behavior for a while. This is an authoritarian regime. It's provocative," he said. "It has repeatedly violated U.N. resolutions, tested and produced nuclear weapons and now they are trying to perfect their missile launch system."
Obama said he's been consulting with South Korea about enhancing its missile-defense capabilities and to China about using its influence with Pyongyang to pressure the regime.
"This is something that we have anticipated. We have seen a pattern of behavior over them," he said. "They are not very good at feeding their people, but they invest a huge amount in their weapons systems."