World Health Organization updates threat of Zika virus

WASHINGTON — The Zika virus outbreak and related clusters of microcephaly are no longer a public health emergency of international concern, the World Health Organization said Friday.

This ends the declaration made by the organization in February due to the simultaneous spread of the virus and “extraordinary clusters” of microcephaly among babies born in areas where the virus was spreading.

At the time, it was not known that the virus was the cause of the neurological birth defect.

The WHO will now create a technical committee to handle Zika research and efforts going forward.

“We are not downgrading the importance of Zika. By placing this as a long-term program of work, we are saying Zika is here to stay,” said Dr. David Heymann, the chairman of the emergency committee on Zika, which made the announcement.

He added, “this disease is like all endemic diseases that have a seasonal appearance.”