More than 200,000 army, navy and air force troops are fanning out across Brazil to show people how to eliminate the Aedes aegypti mosquito that spreads the Zika virus, which many health officials believe is linked to severe birth defects.

The nationwide offensive is part of President Dilma Rousseff's declared war on the virus that has quickly spread across the Americas.

The government says 220,000 members of the armed forces accompanied by community health agents and mosquito control teams are taking part in Saturday's effort to educate the population on how to eliminate mosquito breeding areas in and around their homes.

The government says troops will visit 3 million homes in 356 municipalities to hand out explanatory pamphlets.

Among these are 115 priority cities, which registered a rate of over 100 cases of dengue per 100,000 habitants in the months of November and December of 2015.

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that can carry Zika virus

Scientists believe the Aedes aegypti mosquito can carry Zika virus. (Helmut Fohringer/AFP/Getty)

The leaflets warn of the dangers of still and stagnant water as breeding grounds for mosquitoes, and methods for such holdings to be removed and prevented.

Scientists believe the Zika virus is linked to a surge in Brazil of babies being born with the brain defect microcephaly.

Defence Minister Aldo Rebelo was present in Sao Paulo for the start of the public action phase of the campaign against the virus, which he said has spread throughout the whole Brazilian territory.

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The Brazilian government announced a suspected link between Zika virus and microcephaly, a rare birth defect that sees babies born with unusually small heads and can cause lasting developmental problems. (Mario Tama/Getty Images)

"Our mobilization today involves members of the army, the navy and the air force, in all 25 states and the Federal District, and also involves the participation of military personnel already trained in the eradication of mosquito breeding grounds.

"This will be followed by other phases. Today we are working to reduce the proliferation of the mosquito," Rebelo said.

The next phase of the operation will begin on Monday, involving residential visits by the armed forces to identify problem areas and distribute larvicid and insecticide.

With files from Reuters