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WHO declares end of Zika emergency

GENEVA – The World Health Organization declared on Friday that the Zika virus no longer constitutes an international emergency, but it stressed a need for a long-term effort to address Zika, which has been linked to birth defects and neurological complications.

The WHO’s Emergency Committee, which declared a public health emergency of international concern in February, said the virus is still a long-term problem.

“The Zika virus and associated consequences remain a significant enduring public health challenge requiring intense action but no longer represent a PHEIC,” the WHO panel composed of independent experts said in a statement after meeting.

Carried by mosquitoes, the Zika virus can cause the rare birth defect microcephaly and other neurological disorders in infants and adults. It has spread to more than 60 countries and territories since the outbreak was identified last year in Brazil.

“The committee agreed that Zika must now be managed within the World Health Organization as are other very important infectious diseases and other threats,” Dr. David Heymann, chair of the Zika Emergency Committee, told a news conference.

WHO Director-General Dr. Margaret Chan accepted the committee’s recommendations and declared an end to the emergency.

But the UN health agency maintained recommendations, including that people exposed to the Zika virus should take preventive measures for six months to avoid sexual transmission. (Reuters)