Ricardo Barros is claiming the Zika risk is "minimal" during Rio 2016 ©Getty Images

Brazilian Health Minister Ricardo Barros has sought to downplay concerns surrounding the Zika virus ahead of next month's Olympic and Paralympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, claiming that fears are being taken out of proportion.

In an exclusive blog published today on insidethegames, Barros claims that the Games will only present 0.25 per cent of all travels to Zika-affected areas worldwide.

He also claimed the risk will be lower in the Brazilian winter, pointing-out the country survived previous concerns during the 2014 FIFA World Cup.

"In the context of concerns about the mosquito-borne Zika virus, our health care system is fully prepared," he writes.

"Preventive actions against the Aedes aegypti mosquito are securely in place, with 24/7 monitoring in Rio and the other locations where events will take place.

"The circulation of the Zika virus will not prevent us from having a safe event for athletes and spectators. 

"The risks are minimal. 

"A study published by Cambridge University predicted there might be one case of infection among the 500,000 tourists who are due to arrive, and the World Health Organization confirmed a couple of weeks ago that the risk of propagation of the disease is very low."

Several golfers have cited Zika fears as their reason for withdrawing from the Olympic Games ©Getty Images
Several golfers have cited Zika fears as their reason for withdrawing from the Olympic Games ©Getty Images

Mosquito-borne Zika has been linked to a condition which causes babies to be born with small heads and under-developed brains and can also cause miscarriages, premature birth and vision problems in babies,

It has caused worldwide concerns ahead of the Games, particularly after 150 university professors claimed the event should be moved out of Brazil to avoid the spread of the disease.

Two of the top four men’s golfers in the world will not be a part of golf's return to the Olympic programme after a 112-year absence, with world number one Jason Day of Australia and Ireland's Rory McIlroy having both pulled out due to Zika.

Concerns over the virus have also prompted South Africa's Branden Grace, Fiji's Vijay Singh and Australian Marc Leishman to withdraw.

Some have dismissed this as an excuse to avoid competing, however, with American cyclist Tejay van Garderen virtually the only other athlete to have withdrawn due to Zika.

Rio 2016 vowed last month to began an "information campaign" to minimise the risks.

"It's helpful also to place our Zika situation in a global context," Barros added.

"During the period of the Games, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the United States, the very large number of arrivals in Rio will still only represent 0.25 per cent of all travel to Zika-affected areas worldwide. 

"The virus is already circulating in 60 countries, with the exposed population in Brazil representing only 15 per cent of the global total."

Barros' full blog can be read here.