by Associated Press | November 18, 2016

Acknowledging that Zika is here to stay, the World Health Organization is lifting a nine-month-old emergency declaration against the mosquito-borne virus. Zika can result in severe birth defects to babies when pregnant women are infected.

The agency is instead shifting to a longer-term approach against the virus, which has spread across Latin America, the Caribbean and beyond. Dr. David Heymann, head of a WHO emergency committee on Zika, cited the virus as a "significant and enduring" threat.

Nearly 30 countries have reported birth defects linked to Zika. WHO says more than 2,100 cases of nervous-system malformations have been reported in Brazil alone.

Zika is mainly spread by mosquitoes, but also can be contracted through sex. Most infected people don't get sick. The virus can cause a mild illness, with fever, rash and joint pain in adults.