OTTAWA — The federal government is contributing almost $5 million to the global fight against the Zika virus.
Health Minister Jane Philpott has announced an investment of $4.95 million for research into the mosquito-borne virus and for humanitarian aid to countries hardest hit by the epidemic.
Zika has been shown to cause a neurological birth defect called microcephaly in babies born to women infected during pregnancy.
The virus has also been linked to cases of a sometimes paralyzing neurological disorder called Guillain-Barre syndrome in some infected children and adults.
Zika has become rampant in South and Central America, parts of Mexico and the Caribbean. More than 60 countries worldwide have been affected by the virus.
To date, 68 Canadians have tested positive for the virus, most of them travellers to countries where Zika has reached epidemic levels. Scientists say some cases have been transmitted sexually from an infected partner.
Canada is investing $3 million to fund Canadian and Latin American and Caribbean researchers. The teams will collaborate to better understand the link between Zika, microcephaly and Guillain-Barre 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 its response to the epidemic in the most affected countries. Global Affairs Canada is providing $1 million in humanitarian funding to the World Health Organization, PAHO, UNICEF and the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies.
“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,” Philpott said in a statement Wednesday.
“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.”