NEW YORK (CBSNewYork/AP) — Sen. Charles Schumer wants the White House to appoint a “zika czar” to coordinate the U.S. response to the mosquito-borne virus that is being blamed for serious birth defects.

Schumer said Friday that the Zika czar would coordinate between federal agencies and foreign governments to prevent the spread of the virus. The New York Democrat says the position should be filled before the start of mosquito season in the U.S.

“We need to build a firewall, a firewall against zika,” Schumer said, adding that a zika czar could coordinate efforts with state and local governments around the world was was done for ebola.

ZIKA INFORMATION FROM THE CDCBasics | FAQ | Info For Pregnant Women | Symptoms, Diagnosis & Treatment | More Info |  10 Facts About The Zika Virus

The Zika virus is the suspected cause of babies in Brazil and other countries being born with abnormally small heads. The virus has also been reported in Mexico, the Caribbean, tropical Asia and parts of southeast Africa.

The federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is urging pregnant women or those trying to become pregnant not to travel to Zika-affected areas.

The Obama administration has asked Congress for $1.8 billion to fight Zika.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced last week that pregnant women in New York who have recently traveled to countries impacted by the Zika virus can get free tests for the infection.

Symptoms are usually mild, can include a rash, fever, joint pain, or conjunctivitis and appear a few days after a bite by an infected mosquito.

So far, 11 New Yorkers have tested positive for Zika. Three in Suffolk County; one in Nassau County; one in Rockland County; one in Westchester County; one in Monroe County; and one in Orange County.

Additional information on Zika is available here. DOH has also set up a Zika virus information line which will be staffed weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The number is: 1-888-364-4723.

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