Would the possibility of getting up to $30 million get you to pay more attention to the Zika virus?
The U.S. Agency for International Development announced today it’s going to invest up to $30 million in new products and projects to help stop the spread of the mosquito-borne virus. Universities, laboratories and individual businesses could be eligible for the grant.
USAID is looking for innovations that will help control mosquitoes, provide faster diagnostic tests for Zika, encourage community engagement and awareness about the disease. Even new products and ideas that will help repel Zika-carrying mosquitoes from homes and people are being sought.
Officially called the “Combating Zika and Future Threats Grand Challenge,” USAID had a similar challenge grant for the deadly Ebola virus. That effort yielded everything from new forms of powdered bleach — to sanitize the protective suits of medical workers — to lightweight, portable decontamination chambers, and public education campaigns.
The Zika challenge grant would go toward similar innovations aimed at controlling a disease that is, “scarier than we initially thought,” Dr. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said this week.
U.S. health officials are increasingly alarmed by the disease which has spread through the Americas and is strongly linked to a greater range of birth defects than previously believed. In addition to microcephaly, a condition that leaves babies with underdeveloped brains, cognitive disabilities and tiny heads, the Zika virus is now thought to cause hearing and sight impairments in otherwise healthy looking babies.
Last week the Obama administration said it would transfer $589 million from other disease prevention funds to fight Zika. Already a problem in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories, health officials fear Zika will gain a foothold in the continental U.S. as the weather warms. The administration has also asked Congress for $1.9 billion to fight the disease, a request Congress has so far denied.
For more about the challenge grant read here www.usaid.gov/grandchallenges/zika