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MLB cancels Puerto Rico games due to Zika concerns

North America’s Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) have confirmed that a two-game series between the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins scheduled to take place in Puerto Rico this month will now be staged in Miami amid concerns over the Zika virus.

The Pirates and Marlins had been due to face one another at Hiram Bithorn Stadium in the city of San Juan on May 30-31. The games will now take place at the Marlins’ home ballpark, Marlins Park.

The MLBPA requested that MLB commissioner Rob Manfred seek a new location for the games after a number of players expressed concerns over the virus. Staff at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) briefed Pirates and Marlins players and staff on the risks associated with Zika, which is linked to a rare birth defect and a condition that can cause paralysis. Puerto Rico has had 785 confirmed Zika cases, including its first death from the virus.

The issue was discussed with federal and Puerto Rican government officials, after which point Manfred stated that any players who did not want to travel should not be forced to so. After a number of first-team players from both clubs opted not to travel, Manfred chose to relocate the games to Miami.

MLB said in a statement that it “looks forward to returning to play games in Puerto Rico in the near future”. MLB will also stage a number of youth and community-based events in Puerto Rico this month, while contributions will be made to the CDC Foundation in its efforts to rid the territory of the disease.

The outbreak of the virus in Brazil is one of a number of issues to have impacted on preparations for this summer’s Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, which take place from August 5-21.