In order to combat the Zika virus, which is spreading rapidly throughout Latin America, the executive wants to allocate €10 million from the EU budget.
The research funding, which is likely to come from the Horizon 2020 programme, could, for example, be spent on developing a vaccine against Zika.
Global vaccination programmes are currently being set up, but the World Health Organisation (WHO) doesn’t expect a new drug to be available for patients anytime soon.
The European Commission has already held a Zika assessment meeting with the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC), and decided to follow the recommendations from the WHO, which includes advice for travellers in the affected areas.
Travellers and EU residents should take personal, preventative measures, such as using mosquito nets while sleeping, wearing long-sleeved clothing, and staying in well-screened houses.
In Europe, the risk of the virus spreading remains low, particularly during winter.
A Commission spokesperson informed EurActiv that health ministers from the EU’s 28 member states next week will meet in Amsterdam to formally endorse its Zika research plan.
Zika has already been deemed a global emergency by the WHO, and has been compared to the recent Ebola outbreak in West Africa. The WHO estimates that the spread of the virus in South and Central America could lead to four million new cases in 2016.
According to Spanish news agency EFE, 30 countries and territories, mostly in Latin America, have so far been put on a travel warning list.
While the Zika virus is spread by the Aedes mosquito, and in the majority of cases produces no or only mild symptoms, the virus has been linked to serious birth defects, such as microcephaly, which is associated with small infant head sizes, as well as neurological impairment.
According to Stratfor, El Salvador, Honduras, Jamaica and Colombia are already advising women to delay preganancies until the virus is under control.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) on 1 February formally declared the Zika virus a global emergency. Labelling the virus an international health threat is meant to increase the chances of getting it under control with the help of the WHO's expertise, personnel and resources.
- 9-10 February: Ministers of health from member states meet in Amsterdam to discuss the Zika virus, among other threats.