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WHO says $56 million is needed to Fight Zika

Update Date: Feb 17, 2016 09:28 AM EST

The World Health Organization (WHO) revealed that $56 million is needed to help fund the plan to fight the Zika virus until June.

The United Nations health agency said that the campaigns include speeding up research for a potential vaccine and carrying out studies to examine how the virus spreads and how it can be diagnosed. The WHO will need $25 million in funding to help control the virus within the countries and territories that it has been confirmed in.

So far, the virus, which the WHO declared a public health emergency on Feb. 1, has mostly been concentrated in central and South America. The WHO expects the virus to spread throughout the Americas with the exception of Canada and Chile when the weather gets warmer, which is why containing the virus is so important.

The agency says it is expecting the money to come from member states as well as other donors. For the time being, the WHO has taken $2 million out of an emergency contingency fund to help pay for the initial programs.

"Possible links with neurological complications and birth malformations have rapidly changed the risk profile for Zika from a mild threat to one of very serious proportions," WHO director-general Margaret Chan said in the WHO Strategic Response Framework and Joint Operations Plan issued in Geneva, reported by Reuters.

The mosquito-borne virus has been linked to microcephaly, a birth defect that is characterized by an abnormally small head and an underdeveloped brain. The virus and the defect have been affecting Brazil the most where 41 cases of microcephaly have been linked to the virus. Overall, there have been more than 460 cases of the birth defect in Brazil since last year.

Chan will be heading to Brazil next week to analyze the measures that the country has taken to combat Zika.

ZIka has been around since 1947. However, the virus has been considered to be very mild with symptoms including fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis (red eyes). An infection will typically clear up on its own and in about 80 percent of the cases, symptoms will not even show up.

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