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Google Teams with UNICEF to Map Spread of Zika Virus

The Aedes Aegypti mosquito larvae are photographed at a laboratory of the Ministry of Health of El Salvador in San Salvador, Feb. 7, 2016.

Tech giant Google said Thursday that it is working with the United Nations Children's Emergency Fund (UNICEF) to help "map and anticipate" the spread of the Zika virus, which is linked to birth defects in children.

"A volunteer team of Google engineers, designers, and data scientists is helping UNICEF build a platform to process data from different sources in order to visualize potential outbreaks," said director Jacquelline Fuller in a statement posted on the company's blog.

"Ultimately, the goal of this open source platform is to identify the risk of Zika transmission for different regions and help UNICEF, governments and NGO’s decide how and where to focus their time and resources."

Fuller added that this set of tools, although prototyped for the Zika response, will also be useful for future emergencies.

Google also announced that it is donating $1 million to support UNICEF's efforts, such as reducing mosquito populations; developing diagnostics and vaccines; awareness, and prevention.

The World Health Organization has warned that the mosquito-borne virus is spreading rapidly through the Americas and could affect as many as four million people.

The Zika virus has been tentatively linked to 4,000 suspected cases of microcephaly in Brazil, a condition that results in abnormally small heads and brains in newborns. There is no treatment for microcephaly.

Experts say the best way to prevent Zika is to avoid mosquito bites.No vaccine or treatment is available.