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MIAMI (CBSMiami/AP) – Zika is no longer a global health emergency, according to The World Health Organization. The UN’s health agency’s lifted its nine-month-old declaration on Friday and acknowledged that Zika is here to stay. David Heymann, head of a WHO emergency committee on Zika, cited a “significant and enduring” threat from the mosquito-borne virus.
The infection has been linked to severe birth defects in almost 30 countries. These include microcephaly, where babies are born with abnormally small heads and restricted brain development. The organization said complications from the virus “remain a significant public health challenge requiring intense action.”
Heymann was joined by a panel of medical experts at a news conference in Geneva to issue the new declaration. Peter Salama, executive director of the organization’s emergency program, noted Zika is seasonal and expected to return.
By downgrading the emergency status for Zika, the organization will now shift to a longer-term approach for fighting the virus that has spread across Latin America, the Caribbean and beyond.
In the U.S., locally transmitted cases of the virus were found in parts of the Miami area. However, the vast majority of the more than 4,000 cases of the disease reported in the U.S. were travel-related.
Florida has had 234 locally-acquired Zika cases and 939 “travel related cases” plus 15 cases of undetermined cause.
There are still two Zika zones in Miami-Dade County, including in Little Havana.
- Miami Beach Area – 28th Street to the north, 8th Street to the south, intercoastal water to the west and the Atlantic Ocean to the east.
- Miami Area – NW 79th St. to the North, NW 63rd St. to the South, NW 10th Ave. to the West and N. Miami Ave. to the East.
The virus “is not going away,” WHO said on Twitter. “Countries need to be prepared & strengthen detection & prevention, as well as care & support for people.”
The virus continues to spread to areas where Aedes aegypti mosquitoes are established, the organization noted.
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