The Zika virus is causing major concern – so much so that the World Health Organization has declared the epidemic a global emergency.
RIO DE JANEIRO Research by scientists in Brazil indicates that a mosquito more common than the one primarily known to transmit Zika infections may possibly be able to carry the virus, a development that could further complicate efforts to limit its spread.
Also Thursday, Google announced it was donating $1 million to UNICEF for the fight against Zika. The aim of the partnership between Unicef and Google is to get ahead of the Zika virus before it gets through to more locations in order to try and stop it while it’s still possible.
“As a company whose mission is helping people find information, with a lot of experience in analyzing large sets of data, we’re in a good position to help – at scale and at speed”, read the blog.
The most significant health threat is for pregnant women, because infections have been linked to the birth defect microcephaly, miscarriages, and other poor birth outcomes in some women infected during pregnancy. The platform will operate on different data sources, like weather and travel patterns.
The Health Ministry said that authorities were investigating whether the virus had been transmitted to the woman through unprotected sex or whether a mosquito could have entered New Zealand in the man’s luggage and bitten the woman.
“The goal of this open-source platform was to identify the risk of Zika transmission for different regions and help UNICEF, governments, and NGOs [nongovernmental organizations] decide how and where to focus their time and resources”, the company said in its statement.
But Dr. Sue Lynn Ledford, public health division director at Wake County, said there was no need for residents to be concerned. “This set of tools is being prototyped for the Zika response, but will also be applicable to future emergencies“, said Google.
In addition to the search based efforts, the company has also partnered with YouTube creators and channels, including Sesame Street, to help spread information on Zika prevention through the video-sharing site.
The most prevalent birth defect is microcephaly, which leaves newborns with reduced head size and an underdeveloped brain. Developed in the 19th century, they were used in 1984 to show that human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) causes AIDS.