"Elmo is bigger than any one person and will continue to be an integral part of 'Sesame Street' to engage, educate and inspire children around the world, as it has for 40 years," Sesame Workshop said in its statement.
"Sesame Street" is in production, but other puppeteers are prepared to fill in for Clash during his absence, according to a person close to the show who spoke on condition of anonymity because that person was not authorized to publicly discuss details about the show's production.
"Elmo will still be a part of the shows being produced," that person said.
Though usually behind the scenes as Elmo's voice and animator, Clash has become a star in his own right. In 2006, he published an autobiography, "My Life as a Furry Red Monster," and was the subject of the 2011 documentary "Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey."
In addition to his marquee role as Elmo, Clash also serves as the show's senior Muppet coordinator and Muppet captain.
He has won 23 daytime Emmy awards and one prime-time Emmy.
Clash has been a puppeteer for "Sesame Street" since 1984, when he was handed the fuzzy red puppet with ping-pong-ball eyes and asked to come up with a voice for him. Clash transformed the character, which had languished as a marginal member of the Muppets family for a number of years, into a major star that rivaled Big Bird as the face of "Sesame Street."
Among children and adults alike, Elmo was quickly embraced as a frolicsome child with a high-pitched giggle and a tendency to speak of himself in the third person.
"I would love to be totally like Elmo," Clash said in a 1997 interview with The Associated Press. "He is playful and direct and positive."
Besides "Sesame Street," Elmo has made guest appearances on dozens of TV shows. He starred in the 1999 feature film "Elmo in Grouchland." And he has inspired a vast product line, notably the Tickle Me Elmo doll, which created a sales sensation with its introduction in 1996.
AP reporter Tom Hays contributed to this report.