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Zika virus: Pregnant women advised not to travel to South America

The WHO has declared the outbreak a 'public health emergency of international concern'.

Ana Beatriz is held by her father Alipio Martin during a medical appointment at the Altino Ventura Foundation in Recife, Brazil, on 29 January 2016. In Brazil, authorities are trying to shed light on the link between Zika virus related to 4,000 babies born with microcephaly. Picture: EPA/Percio Campos.

CAPE TOWN - Minister of Health Aaron Motsoaledi has urged pregnant women not to travel to Brazil or other South American countries dealing with an outbreak of the Zika virus.

The World Health Organisation has declared the outbreak a public health emergency of international concern.

Motsoaledi says more than 34 countries, mostly in South and Central America, are already dealing with the virus.

He was briefing Parliament's health committee earlier today.

Motsoaledi says while people who get infected usually experience mild symptoms and recover quickly, the virus has been linked to the birth of babies with abnormally small brains.

He says the biggest concern for South Africa is the risk posed to pregnant women traveling to affected countries.

"Our first advice is: do not travel. If you must, take all the precautions, make sure no mosquito comes near you or bites you because that is the only guarantee [that you will not be infected]."

The minister says South Africa is geared to respond to any outbreak of the Zika virus.

He says the type of mosquito that carries the virus does not occur in South Africa.

A Colombian man presented with the disease soon after arriving in Johannesburg in February, but his symptoms cleared up after a few days.

WATCH: Inside the Zika virus