Canada contributes $5 million to global fight against Zika virus

Jane Philpott, Minister of Health, on Thursday announced an investment of $4.95 million in the global fight against the Zika virus.

On February 1, the World Health Organization (WHO) declared the Zika virus a public health emergency of international concern, as cases of the virus have now been documented in more than 60 countries. There is a scientific consensus that Zika virus infection during pregnancy is a cause of microcephaly, a birth defect marked by an abnormally small head and underdeveloped brain. There is also scientific consensus that the virus is a cause of Guillain-Barré syndrome, a neurological disorder. To date, 68 people in Canada have tested positive for the virus.

Canada has taken concerted action to tackle the spread of the Zika virus in the Americas, the minister said in Ottawa. Through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the International Development Research Centre, Canada is investing $3 million to fund teams of Canadian and Latin American and Caribbean researchers. These teams will collaborate to better understand the link between Zika, microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome; develop improved diagnostic tests; study how the virus is transmitted; and better prevent its transmission through more effective mosquito control measures.

The Public Health Agency of Canada is contributing a further $950,000 to support the Pan-American Health Organization (PAHO) in responding to the epidemic in the hardest hit countries. Global Affairs Canada will also provide $1 million in humanitarian funding to the WHO, PAHO, the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.

Philpott said: “In the countries that have been hardest hit by the Zika virus, in Latin America and the Caribbean, thousands of cases of microcephaly have left parents distraught and pregnant women fearful. The funding announced today will allow Canadian researchers to work together with their counterparts in Latin America and the Caribbean to better understand this virus and its complications, while the funding for the Pan-American Health Organization and other agencies will help address this significant widespread outbreak.”

Marie-Claude Bibeau,   Minister of International Development and La Francophonie, said: “This funding will help protect communities, especially at-risk women, against the Zika virus, strengthen surveillance and improve awareness. By promoting an efficient and coordinated response through its engagement with experienced health and humanitarian partners, Canada is supporting the fight against this disease.”

The International Development Research Centre (IDRC) funds research in developing countries to promote growth, reduce poverty, and drive large-scale positive change. IDRC was established by an act of Canada’sparliament in 1970 with a mandate to “initiative, encourage, support, and conduct research into the problems of the developing regions of the world and into the means for applying and adopting scientific, technical, and other knowledge to the economic and social advancement of those regions.” – CNW

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