GENEVA, Switzerland, Nov. 19 (UPI) -- The World Health Organization declared Friday the Zika virus is no longer an international public health emergency.
The WHO's Emergency Committee on Zika and microcephaly met for a fifth time and determined the mosquito-borne disease was no longer a global health threat under International health regulations.
"Many aspects of this disease and associated consequences still remain to be understood, but this can best be done through sustained research," the WHO said in a statement. "The EC recommended that this should be escalated into a sustained program of work with dedicated resources to address the long-term nature of the disease and its associated consequences."
The Zika virus was first designated as a public health emergency in February following the emergence of an "extraordinary cluster" of microcephaly and other neurological disorders in Brazil and a similar outbreak in French Polynesia.
WHO Dr. Pete Salama said the Zika virus will now be treated as a chronic problem and could return seasonally like other mosquito-borne diseases, the New York Times reported.
"It is really important that we communicate this very clearly: We are not downgrading the importance of Zika," he said. "In fact, by placing this as a longer term program of work, we're sending the message that Zika is here to stay. And WHO's response is here to stay, in a robust manner."