A volunteer team of data scientists, engineers and designers from the company has begun working with UNICEF officials to build an open-source platform for collecting and processing Zika-related data from different sources. “Ultimately, the goal of this open source platform is to identify the risk of Zika transmission for different regions and help UNICEF, governments and NGO’s [non-governmental organizations] decide how and where to focus their time and resources”, Jacquelline Fuller, director of Google.org, wrote in a blog post.
The $1 million donation is expected to be used to help UNICEF inform the public about the virus, develop vaccines and exterminate mosquito populations.
The rare tropical Zika virus was first discovered in monkeys in Uganda in 1947; its name comes from the Zika forest where it was first discovered. The incubation period (the time from exposure to symptoms) for Zika virus disease is not known, but is likely to be a few days to a week. It generally causes mild symptoms of fever, joint pain, rash and red eyes.
Health officials say a Zika virus epidemic is unlikely in the 48 contiguous states because of the widespread use of air conditioning, lower density of housing and use of mosquito repellents. Google has seen a more than 3,000% increase in global search interest for Zika since November, the company said.
The patient was said to have contacted the virus while traveling in Central America and no transmission occurred in the USA according to the SF DPH statement.
Unlike most other communicable diseases, researchers have recently found that the Zika Virus can also be spread from human to human through sexual transmission. The virus is spread through mosquito bites.
It said it had added extensive information about Zika globally in 16 languages, with an overview of the virus, symptom information, and health alerts from governments and worldwide organisations.
“We hope these efforts are helpful in fighting this new public health emergency, and we will continue to do our part to help combat this outbreak”, Fuller said.
The company, which owns YouTube, will also work with YouTube video creators across Latin America to raise awareness about Zika prevention through their channels.
“As a company whose mission is helping people find information, with a lot of experience in analysing large sets of data, we’re in a good position to help – at scale and at speed”.