Obama now says that there is no reason to panic over a virus that has been linked to an outbreaks in birth defects in South America:

President Obama is asking people not to panic about the Zika virus.

“The good news is this is not like Ebola, people don’t die of Zika — a lot of people get it and don’t even know that they have it,” the president said in an interview with Gayle King that aired Monday on “CBS This Morning.”

While I agree panic is unwarranted, concern is not…especially after Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that its emergency operations center has been put on a “Level 1” status. The President is also asking for $1.8 billion in funding for the resources to combat the disease.

President Obama will ask Congress for $1.8 billion in emergency funding to combat the Zika virus through mosquito control programs, vaccine research, education and improving health care for low-income pregnant women, the White House said Monday.

The new request comes as the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced that its emergency operations center has been put on a “Level 1” status — its highest level of activation — because of the Zika outbreak. The CDC has only put its operations center at Level 1 three times in the past: during the Ebola outbreak in 2014; during the H1N1 pandemic in in 2009; and after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

Obama’s spending proposal includes $355 million in foreign aid to South America, Central America, the Caribbean, where the Zika virus is spreading most rapidly. The World Health Organization declared an international public health emergency last week, warning that the mosquito-borne virus is strongly suspected as the cause of a cluster of cases of microcephaly, a neurological disorder that afflicts the babies of pregnant women with the virus.

The United States Olympic Committee also said that that American athletes and staff concerned about Zika virus should consider not going to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games.

The message was delivered in a conference call involving USOC officials and leaders of U.S. sport federations in late January, according to two people who participated in the call.

Federations were told that no one should go to Brazil “if they don’t feel comfortable going. Bottom line,” said Donald Anthony, president and board chairman of USA Fencing.

If history of Obama’s prognostications is any indication, the Zika outbreak continue to be a public health crisis for some time.