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- WHO: $56 million needed to fight Zika
outbreak in coming months
The World Health Organization says it will take $56 million to
kickstart a coordinated international response to the Zika virus
outbreak racing through much of the Americas, and the WHO plans
to tap a newly created emergency contingency fund to pay for the
In a lengthy action plan published Tuesday, the organization said
a hefty chunk of the money will go toward disease surveillance,
which will include tracking new Zika cases and the suspected birth
defects and rare autoimmune syndrome that scientists suspect are
linked to the mosquito-borne virus. More funding will be used to
help provide counseling to pregnant women, as well as to help communities
with mosquito-control programs. Still more funds will go toward
research to speed the development of new vaccines, treatments and
diagnostic tests, as well as to study whether and how Zika is causing
serious conditions such as microcephaly.
More than half the money will be spread among a collection of international
partners, including non-governmental organizations and research
institutions such as Unicef, AmeriCares, Save the Children, the
International Medical Corps and the University of Texas Medical
Branch. The remaining funds will be disbursed within the WHO and
its regional offices in the Americas -- known as the Pan American
Health Organization -- to help carry out the plan through June.
Earlier this month, the organization declared the Zika outbreak
and the accompanying spike in congenital brain abnormalities in
newborns to be a public health emergency of international concern.
The resources detailed by the WHO are much less than those sought
by the Obama administration, which earlier this month asked Congress
for $1.8 billion to respond to the Zika virus abroad and prepare
for it at home.
About $828 million of the administration's request would go to the
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which already has put
its emergency operations center in Atlanta on the highest level
of alert to monitor the disease. The White House also proposed $250
million for a one-year increase in Medicaid funds for Puerto Rico,
which has seen a growing number of Zika infections. The administration
would pump $200 million into accelerated vaccine and testing techniques
for Zika through the National Institutes of Health and the Food
and Drug Administration, and $210 million would go to a new fund
to respond to new outbreaks if they appear in the United States.
The rest of the administration's funding request would help other
countries respond to the virus. It would include $335 million for
the U.S. Agency for International Development and $41 million for
the State Department to respond across South America, Central America
and the Caribbean.
While only a single case of locally acquired Zika infection has
been reported in the continental United States -- this one through
sexual transmission -- more than 50 travel-related cases of the
disease have been confirmed. With the virus having now spread to
dozens of countries throughout the Americas, the CDC has recommended
that pregnant women consider postponing travel to affected areas.
The WHO said it anticipates that "Zika virus will continue
to spread and will likely reach all countries and territories where
Aedesaegypti mosquitoes are found" -- an area that includes
the Gulf Coast of the United States.
Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador and Jamaica
have each advised women to postpone getting pregnant until more
is known about the virus and the suspected harm it may cause a fetus,
the WHO said.
In releasing Tuesday's action plan, WHO Director-General Margaret
Chan said the Zika outbreak is "particularly serious"
due to the potential for its further spread, the lack of immunity
among many populations and the absence of vaccines, treatments and
tests to detect the disease. What's needed, she said, is a forceful
response "to prevent further outbreaks and control them when
they do occur, and to facilitate research that will help us better
understand this virus and its effects."
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