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Proof Is in the Search, the World Is Worried About Zika

MAR 04, 2016 | CAITLYN FITZPATRICK
Online searches for Zika-related information are soaring and they don’t seem to be slowing down any time soon.

The amount of searches on the Zika virus has increased 3000% since November – but the information doesn’t end there. Google engineers are teaming up with the United Nations of Children’s Emergency Fund (UNICEF) to map out the spread of Zika in order to anticipate and fight the virus.

“We’ve also made some updates to our products to make Zika information more accessible,” a Google statement said, “and we’re providing UNICEF with a $1 million grant to help their efforts on the ground.”

The current Zika outbreak began in Brazil in May 2015, and since September, more than 4,000 babies have been born with microcephaly in the South American country. Microcephaly is of alarming concern to pregnant women all over the world since the virus has reached over 30 countries and regions.

It was on February 1 that the World Health Organization (WHO) declared a global health emergency due to Zika. With recent developments finding that the virus is also linked to the paralyzing Guillain-Barré syndrome, as well as another harmful condition in pregnant women, it’s no wonder that online searches are on the rise.

“We need to act fast to provide women and pregnant mothers with the information they need… and we need to engage with communities to stop the mosquito that is carrying and transmitting this virus,” Heather Papowitz, MD, UNICEF’s senior advisor for health emergencies, said in a statement. Without a preventive vaccine or specific treatment, knowledge is the most powerful tool to stop the disease from spreading, the statement continued.

The map below shows just how much people around the world are looking for Zika information. Notice how the search predominantly stays in South America until about December when it gains popularity in the United States. By late January, people in nearly every continent are behind their screens Googling for more information on the virus.

Between Google, UNICEF, and WHO, it’s apparent that all hands are on deck against Zika.


 
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