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Zika virus cases in Spain, Guinea Bissau as US president calls for emergency funds

Cases of the Zika virus have been reported in Spain and Guinea Bissau. The news comes as US President Barack Obama has called for $1.9 billion in emergency funds to fight the disease.

On Friday, health authorities in Spain announced the first known sexually transmitted case of the Zika virus within the country. A woman from Madrid contracted it from her partner, who had been diagnosed shortly after returning from a trip to Latin America in either April or May. To date, Spain has had 158 known cases of Zika infections - all of which resulted from people's traveling overseas.

In West Africa, Guinea-Bissau has confirmed its first three cases of the Zika virus in a group of islands off the mainland. "The Health Minister has informed (the government) of three confirmed cases of Zika virus contamination located in the Bijagos Archipelago," according to a government statement in Bissau on Friday.

The mosquito-borne Zika virus has been linked to thousands of cases of the microcephaly birth defect in countries such as Brazil, where more than 5,000 cases have been reported. The birth defect is marked by babies born with brain abnormalities and undersized heads.The country has declared a public health emergency over the disease which may also be linked to other health issues such as Guillain-Barré syndrome in adults, which can cause temporary paralysis.

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The outbreak began in early 2015 in Brazil and spread to other parts of the Americas. The virus is spread mainly by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is commonly found throughout the tropical and subtropical Americas.

Obama calls for emergency funds

Also on Friday, US President Barack Obama urged Congress to advance $1.9 billion (1.7 billion euros) in funds to fight the virus.

After meeting with National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases chief Anthony Fauci and other officials in the Oval Office at the White House, Obama said: "This is not the time to play politics," and added that "Congress should not leave, should not adjourn, until they get this done," referring to the upcoming Independence Day holiday weekend.

Scientists researching a clothes detergent additive to repel the virus

Scientists are researching a clothes detergent additive to repel the virus

There is no vaccine to prevent Zika, which is actively spreading in about 50 countries and territories, including Puerto Rico, the US Virgin Islands and American Samoa.

"The good news is we feel fairly confident that we can develop an effective vaccine for Zika," Obama said.

On Tuesday, Florida reported its first case of a baby born with microcephaly after the child's mother, a Haitian citizen, was infected with the Zika virus while pregnant.

Four infants have been born with birth defects related to the Zika virus in the United States, according to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Only about 20 percent of people infected display symptoms, which are usually mild and include fever, joint pain and conjunctivitis.

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jm/mg (Reuters, AFP)

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