Miami Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon
Second baseman Dee Gordon and his Miami Marlins team have cancelled games in Puerto Rico because of Zika Virus fears Reuters

Player concerns about the Zika virus have forced US Major League Baseball (MLB) to cancel a series of Games in Puerto Rico. The Miami Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates had been scheduled to play two games in the commonwealth's capital San Juan on 30 and 31 May.

But after "numerous players expressed concerns about contracting and potentially transmitting the Zika virus to their partners", the games have been relocated to Miami's Marlins Park, the MLB and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) said in a joint statement.

Players and staff has received full briefings from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) regarding the risks associated with the mosquito-borne virus "and the recommended precautions for travellers including those with partners who are pregnant or attempting to conceive", the statement said.

But after discussing the issue and consulting with Puerto Rican government officials MLB commissioner Robert D Manfred Jr "decided that the players who objected to the trip because of their specific family situations should not be forced to travel" to the US territory located in the northeastern Caribbean.

Puerto Rico is among several countries under a "Zika travel notice" by the CDC.

The US State Department has issued travel alerts to more than 40 destinations over Zika concerns, mostly in Latin America and the Caribbean. The virus is believed to cause microcephaly in babies who are born with abnormally small heads.

Zika epidemic

After an outbreak in Brazil, where at least 4,000 babies are suspected to have been born with the virus, authorities noticed an increase of babies born with microcephaly, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO).

"Substantial new research has strengthened the association between Zika infection and the occurrence of fetal malformations and neurological disorders," the organisation said. "However, more investigation is needed to better understand the relationship. Other potential causes are also being investigated."

They also noted a rise in babies being born with Guillain-Barre syndrome, an illness that can cause temporary paralysis among infected babies.

As the virus spread earlier this year some Latin American and Caribbean countries recommended that women avoid pregnancy by up to two years, while pregnant women were advised to stay indoors and avoid mosquitoes.