The number of Zika virus cases in Puerto Rico since the first  locally acquired case was reported in late Dec. 2015 is now at 157 as of Mar. 3, according to the Departamento de Salud de Puerto Rico.

Donated blood /Ethan Morgan USAF
Donated blood /Ethan Morgan USAF

Of this total, 14 cases were in pregnant women, six patients required hospitalization and one Guillain-Barre syndrome (GBS) case has been reported.

In addition in an attempt to prevent Zika spread in Puerto Rico, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services today announced that it is arranging and funding shipments of blood products from the continental United States to Puerto Rico to ensure an adequate supply of safe blood for island residents as the Commonwealth of Puerto Rico experiences active mosquito-borne Zika transmission.  The first batch of blood products arrived in Puerto Rico on Saturday, March 5.

In the absence of special measures to screen for infection or reduce pathogens, the risk of Zika virus transmission through blood products is considered likely based on the most current scientific evidence of how Zika virus and similar viruses (flaviviruses) are spread, and what is currently being reported about transfusion-associated infection occurring outside of the United States. Blood products shipped to Puerto Rico will be collected from areas in the continental United States without active transmission of Zika virus so that blood products used in Puerto Rico can meet all of the same high safety standards as those used elsewhere in the United States.

The shipments are being provided to Puerto Rico through the American Red Cross, the Blood Centers of America, and America’s Blood Centers. Existing blood collection centers in Puerto Rico will then supply that imported blood to transfusion providers.

“Availability of safe blood products for the residents of Puerto Rico is a major priority for HHS,” said Karen B. DeSalvo, M.D., M.P.H., M.Sc., HHS acting assistant secretary for health. “We are arranging the importation of blood products from areas unaffected by local Zika transmission to ensure the safety of Puerto Rico’s blood supply.”