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Paul Allen announced $2 million in grants on Friday aimed at combating the spread of the Zika virus, which the World Health Organization has characterized as an international public health emergency.

Paul Allen
Paul Allen

The funds from the billionaire Microsoft co-founder and philanthropist will be directed toward two organizations, according to a news release from Allen’s Vulcan Inc.

The American Red Cross will receive a $1.5 million grant to “support the global Red Cross network’s integrated vector-control activities in Zika-affected areas.” Another $550,000 will help Chembio Diagnostics Systems Inc. “develop a suite of rapid diagnostic tests to detect Zika, including a stand-alone Zika test and other rapid diagnostics to differentiate between multiple fever illnesses.”

“Our first grant during the Ebola crisis was to the Red Cross and we are pleased to support their efforts on the ground to address this emerging threat,” said Brennan Banks, deputy director at Vulcan Philanthropy. Allen previously made a $100 million commitment to help end the Ebola outbreak.

The mosquito-transmitted Zika is an infection related to dengue, yellow fever and West Nile virus, according to a handy Q&A by The New York Times. It did not begin spreading widely in the Western Hemisphere until last May, the Times says, adding that millions of people in tropical regions of the Americas may now have been infected. Pregnant women are reported to be especially vulnerable.

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