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Olympics to go ahead, says Zika-hit Brazil, but urges pregnant women to stay away

Brasilia has warned pregnant women not to take the risk of traveling to the Rio de Janeiro Summer Olympics. Both Brazil and the IOC have welcomed a move by the WHO to declare a health emergency over the Zika virus.

As the International Olympic Committee (IOC) welcomed measures taken to stop the spread of the Zika virus on Monday, the Brazilian government issued a warning for pregnant women to stay away from the summer games in Rio de Janeiro.

President Dilma Rousseff's chief of staff, Jaques Wagner, issued the unprecedented warning that " the risk, which I would say is serious, is for pregnant women. It is clearly not advisable for you (to travel to the Olympics) because you don't want to take that risk."

The mosquito-borne illness, which has no medical cure and usually leaves an adult patient after a period of rest, is suspected of causing thousands of cases of the developmental disorder microcephaly in children whose mothers contract the virus while pregnant.

"If you're an adult, a man or a woman who isn't pregnant, you develop antibodies in about five days and (the disease) passes," Wagner clarified.

Wagner also applauded the decision by the World Health Organization (WHO) to declare a global health emergency, calling it a "positive" move that "alerts the whole world."

IOC: Less mosquitoes in winter

IOC President Thomas Bach also hailed the call by WHO, saying that he believed enough was being done to tackle the extent of the virus so that athletes should not worry about traveling to participate in Rio 2016.

"We welcome this decision by the World Health Organization because it helps raise even more awareness and to provide even more resources to fight the virus," Bach told the press.

"We are in the close contact with the WHO and we see also that so far there is no travel ban being pronounced by the WHO," he continued, adding that the Olympics will take place during winter in Brazil, a time when mosquitoes prefer not to breed.

The Games, which run from August 5 to 21, will take place during a "dryer, cooler climate significantly reduces the presence of mosquitoes".

Zika, originally detected in Africa in the 1940s, was not considered a global threat until last year's unusual outbreak in Latin America. Brazil has become the worst affected country, with some 4,000 suspected cases of related birth defects.

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Brazil: Zika virus no threat to Olympics

es/jr (AFP, Reuters)

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