The World Health Organisation declared an end to its global health emergency over the spread of the Zika virus on Friday.
The emergency was ended because Zika is now shown to be a dangerous mosquito-borne disease, like malaria or yellow fever, and should be viewed as an ongoing threat as other diseases are.
However, Dr Peter Salama, executive director of the WHO’s health emergencies programme, said: “We are not downgrading the importance of Zika. We are sending the message that Zika is here to stay and the WHO response is here to stay.”
Like all mosquito-borne diseases, Zika is seasonal and may repeatedly return to countries with the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that carry it, he added.
Individual countries facing serious new Zika outbreaks could still declare local emergencies.
Dr Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, which is funding efforts to find a Zika vaccine, suggested that it was premature to lift the state of emergency since summer is just beginning in the Southern hemisphere.
“Are we going to see a resurgence in Brazil, Colombia and elsewhere?” he asked. “If they pull back on the emergency, they’d better be able to reinstate it. Why not wait a couple of months to see what happens?”
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