Ottawa, ON – The federal government has announced funding 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. Through the Canadian Institutes of Health Research and the International Development Research Centre, Canada is providing $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.
“As Canada’s contribution to the Ebola epidemic demonstrated, this country is home to some of the finest minds in virology, infectious diseases and public health anywhere in the world,” said Dr. Alain Beaudet, president, Canadian Institutes of Health Research. “CIHR is pleased to be able to help equip these researchers with the resources they need to intervene in this public health emergency and contribute to this important global collaboration.”
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.