Brazil authorities urge pregnant women to avoid Rio Olympics as Zika fears grow

World Health Organisation declares virus an international health emergency

Rio, Olympics

Partial view of the Tennis Center at the Olympic Park for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Friday, Jan. 15, 2016. Television viewers won't notice when the games open in just over six months, but Rio organizers are slashing everywhere to reduce millions in spending to balance the operating budget. (AP Photo/Leo Correa)

Authorities in Brazil have advised pregnant women to stay away from this year's Olympics due to the Zika virus.

Zika was earlier declared an international public health emergency by the World Health Organisation.

The infection which is spread by mosquitoes has been linked to thousands of babies being born with under-developed brains in Brazil.

"The risk, which I would say is serious, is for pregnant women. It is clearly not advisable for you [to travel to Rio de Janeiro for the Games in August] because you don't want to take that risk," AFP quotes the Brazilian president's chief of staff Jaques Wagner as saying.

The Rio Olympics begin on August 5th and end on the 21st of the month.

The Games are then followed by the Paralympics which run from September 7th to 21st, also in Rio de Janeiro.

The WHO said the spread of the Zika virus in South America was an "extraordinary event" and there could be up to four million cases in the region this year.