UNICEF will use the funds to raise awareness of the virus, reduce mosquito populations, support the development of diagnostics and vaccines, and work with communities and governments to prevent Zika transmission. The agency expects to help two hundred million affected or vulnerable people in Brazil and Latin America through its efforts.
Google also announced that its engineers will work with UNICEF to analyze data and help map and anticipate the spread of the virus. A volunteer team of engineers, designers, and data scientists already is working with UNICEF on a mapping platform that will process data from sources such as weather and travel patterns. The ultimate goal of the effort is to identify the risk of Zika transmission in different regions and help UNICEF, governments, and nongovernmental organizations decide how and where to focus their energies and resources. While the tools are being prototyped for Zika, Google anticipates that they will be applicable to future disease outbreaks and emergencies.
"[The] spread of Zika has been harder to identify, map, and contain," said Jacquelline Fuller, director of Google.org, the company's nonprofit arm. "It's believed that four in five people with the virus don't show any symptoms, and the primary transmitter for the disease, the Aedes mosquito species, is both widespread and challenging to eliminate. That means that fighting Zika requires raising awareness on how people can protect themselves, as well as supporting organizations who can help drive the development of rapid diagnostics and vaccines. We also have to find better ways to visualize the threat so that public health officials and NGOs can support communities at risk."