Obama to ask Congress for $1.8 billion to tackle Zika crisis
The Zika virus is a flu-like disease that is transmitted by the Aedes aegypti mosquito (AFP Photo/Luis Robayo)

President Barack Obama will ask Congress for more than $1.8 billion in emergency funding to tackle the fast-spreading Zika virus both at home and abroad, the White House said Monday.

The administration will submit the request "shortly," the White House said in a statement that did not specify a timeframe.

"The requested resources will build on our ongoing preparedness efforts and will support essential strategies to combat this virus," the White House said in a statement.

Zika has been linked to a surge in Latin America of births of children with microcephaly, or abnormally small heads and brains.

The World Health Organization has declared the growing outbreak a global medical emergency.

The hardest hit country is Brazil, which hosts the Summer Olympics starting in August.

Some countries are taking the extraordinary step of urging women to put off having children for now, as it is believed the virus is passed on from infected pregnant women to their fetuses.

The continental United States has yet to see cases of transmission of the virus, which is carried by a mosquito.

But Puerto Rico and other US territories in warmer areas with that kind of mosquito are looking for evidence of transmission, the US statement said.

And some Americans have returned to the continental US from affected countries in Latin America and the Pacific with Zika infection.

US authorities report 50 laboratory-confirmed cases among US travelers from December of last year to February 5.

"As spring and summer approach, bringing with them larger and more active mosquito populations, we must be fully prepared to mitigate and quickly address local transmission within the continental US, particularly in the southern United States," the statement said.