by Kyle Duggan in Ottawa

As the world struggles against the rapid spread of the Zika virus, the Canadian government is opening its wallet to shell out nearly $5 million for research and international aid.

Health Minister Jane Philpott announced a funding package of $4.95 million before question period Wednesday afternoon, which she called a “significant and important international response” on Canada’s part.

The virus has been linked by health officials to causing microcephaly, a rare but serious birth defect that leads to unusually small heads and hindering newborn development.

“This will fund large international projects that will address the spread of the Zika virus,” she said.

According to the minister’s office, $3 million will go toward in research, through Canada Institutes of Health Research, and the International Research Development Centre. Specifically it goes into researching the link between Zika, microcephaly and Guillain-Barré syndrome, along with developing better ways of testing for the virus, studying how it gets transmitted, and finding better ways of preventing transmission from mosquitoes.

Public Health Agency of Canada will send $950,000 to the Pan American Health Organization for responding to countries hardest hit, and Global Affairs Canada will divvy up $1 million for humanitarian funding to a number of organizations, including the United Nations Children’s Fund, the World Health Organization, and the International Federation of Red Cross.

In the U.S., meanwhile, the White House and health officials have been urging Congress to grant $1.9 billion in new funding to deal with the health threat Zika poses internationally and domestically, and while waiting the administration has raided funding from an Ebola fund to make due.

In Canada, the Zika threat itself has been low because the country doesn’t have the Aedes type of mosquito that spreads the virus. According to Public Health Agency Canada’s last update from last week, Canada has 67 cases identified from travel and one from sexual transmission.

Zika has been around in Africa and Asia for decades, but in the past few years it was introduced into the Americas and has been spreading rapidly.

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