Rio dismisses calls to cancel Olympics over spread of Zika virus

Mayor Eduardo Paes says visitors to city this August would be safe

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Image: John Giles / PA Archive/PA Images

The mayor of Rio has dismissed calls for the Olympics to be cancelled or postponed because of the spread of the Zika virus.

A leading Canadian public health professor last week said it would irresponsible to go ahead with the Games with the virus so prevalent in Brazil.

It has spread around the globe - declared a pubic health emergency by the World Health Organisation - with concerns that infection among pregnant women can lead to birth defects.

But Eduardo Paes told Sky News visitors to Rio this August would be safe.

He said: "There's not many cases of the Zika virus, especially in the city of Rio. There is the issue with pregnant women and this is something we need to take care of but I don't know anyone who's got the Zika virus and I know a lot of people so this is not a big issue.

"Dengue fever, which we have in the summer time every year, is much worse than the Zika virus and nobody talks about Dengue fever.

"It is weird for us when we listen to the news outside. Sometimes I think people think it's like Ebola.

"You've got to come and enjoy. It is the time of the year when it's our winter, it is never cold and I know the British will love Rio as they did in the World Cup."

"It is an amazing city, an amazing place. People are completely safe here."

Last week Professor Amir Attaran wrote in the Harvard Public Health Review that going ahead with the Games risked "a foreseeable global catastrophe".

But the International Olympic Committee ruled out any changes and said it was working with the WHO to ensure the safety of the Games.

Dr Cydia Alves Pereira Souza, an expert in infectious diseases in Rio, told Sky News that there is a risk associated with the Olympics.

She said: "I think it is dangerous for the tourists coming and the athletes and everybody. The Olympic park is in the west area of the city where we have the hugest amount of mosquitoes."

Rio's mayor says worries about the Games are same as in previous host cities.

"I remember when I got into London two or three days before the games the newspapers were saying it was going to be chaos, terrible, everything is going to go wrong. Things will all go well and the Zika virus is not going to be a big issue."