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No longer an emergency, Zika virus is a long-term problem, says WHO

The World Health Organization declared Friday that the Zika virus is no longer a global emergency.

After a nine-month emergency designation, the WHO reclassified Zika as a long-term epidemic similar to other mosquito-borne diseases like malaria and yellow fever.

Dr. Peter Salama, WHO’s emergency program executive director, stressed at a press conference the announcement was not “downgrading the importance of Zika,” rather “sending the message that Zika is here to stay and the WHO response is here to stay.”

The WHO issued a public health emergency for the virus in February after a surge in reports of microcephaly, a neurological defects in newborns that has since been linked to Zika.

Nearly 30 countries have reported instances of the virus. Brazil was hit the hardest with nearly 2,100 cases, according to the Associated Press.

Dr. David Heymann, who heads the WHO emergency committee on Zika, said the emergency was put in place to contain the spread and boost resources to study the virus. The immediate needs have since been addressed, but he noted the disease is still a viable threat, particularly as Brazil and other countries in the Southern Hemisphere enter their summer season in the coming months.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention advise pregnant women to continue avoiding infected regions.

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