The World Health Organization decided to end the Zika virus' designation as a "public health emergency of international concern" on Friday, though the organization said the virus was still "a significant enduring public health challenge requiring intense action." Zika virus no longer meets the designation's definition, which requires a "public health emergency of international concern" to pose the risk of international spread of disease and possibly require coordinated international response, and implies a "serious, unusual or unexpected" situation, the WHO said. Zika was first declared a PHEIC in Feb. 2016, but research has since connected Zika virus to microcephaly and as such a longer term effort - which is planned - is necessary, the WHO said. The organization said "sustained research" is still required on this subject in the long-term. However, experts fear that loss of the designation will inhibit research funding for the virus. Georgetown University global health and law expert Lawrence O. Gostin called the end of the designation "quite worrying," since even if the disease is no longer spreading at the requisite level, "the global south will soon enter the summer, which is a high-risk period for Zika." After a "lethargic" international response to the virus, no longer being called an international emergency "has provided reasons for governments and donors to pull back even more," he said.
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