Minister for Foreign Affairs Charlie Flanagan urges pregnant women not to travel to Rio Olympics

Minister Flanagan was speaking at Department’s travel and consular advice for those travelling to the Olympic and Paralympic games

Pregnant women have been urged not to travel to this month's Olympic Games in Rio due to the outbreak of the Zika virus.

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, Charlie Flanagan made the appeal at the launch of the  Department’s travel and consular advice for those travelling to the Olympic and Paralympic games.

"We are all very much looking forward to this Friday and the start of the Rio Olympic and Paralympic Games. I would like to wish all the Irish athletes the very best of luck," he said. "With 77 athletes competing, across 13 sports, this is Team Ireland’s largest delegation since 1948. I’d also like to pay tribute to the 46 athletes on Paralympics Ireland’s team for Rio.

"We expect up to 1,000 Irish fans will travel to Rio for the Olympics, and expect to see more of the same exemplary behaviour we saw from Irish soccer fans in France at the Euros. Our primary concern is obviously with the safety of all those who travel. With this in mind, a temporary consulate will be operational in Rio de Janeiro for the duration of the games, offering round-the-clock support to Irish citizens at the games."

Due to the outbreak of the Zika virus, the message from the HSE is that pregnant women should not travel to the games. The virus, while it may present with no symptoms in adults, has been linked with microcephaly in children and can cause pregnant women to give birth to children with abnormally small heads.

Zika is a mosquito-borne virus which has spread and been most prevalent in Brazil this year. Image: Andre Penner / AP/Press Association Images

"With regard to Zika, our advice is based on the HSE’s expert advice, and we are recommending that women who are pregnant or who are trying to become pregnant should consider postponing their travel," the deaprtment said in a statement.

"That said, we are following the WHO’s advice, who don’t feel that Zika presents the kind of public health risk to justify postponing or cancelling Rio Games. We urge that appropriate care is taken by visitors to protect themselves from mosquito bites, and that people exercise a normal degree of caution in general."

They added: "Anyone planning to travel should download our new smartphone app TravelWise, and ‘favourite’ Brazil, to get the latest security and health updates direct to your smartphone. Full information on Rio can be found at a new micro-site on my Department’s website, at www.dfa.ie/Rio2016.

"Anyone needing assistance in Brazil should phone +55 613 248 8800, our main number in Dublin on 01 408 2000, or contact us via the website www.dfa.ie.

"Real-time updates are also available on social media, from our Embassy in Brasilia (@IrlEmbBrazil), our Consulate in Sao Paulo (@IrlSaoPaulo) and our Consular Division in Dublin (@dfatravel)."