The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services said it was arranging and funding shipments of blood products to Puerto Rico to ensure an adequate supply of safe blood as the U.S. territory struggles with an outbreak of the mosquito-borne Zika virus.

The first batch arrived in cash-strapped Puerto Rico on Saturday, the HHS said in a statement on Monday. (

The shipments are being provided to Puerto Rico through the American Red Cross, the Blood Centers of America, and America's Blood Centers, the HHS said.

U.S. health officials expect many thousands of residents to be infected once the mosquito season reaches its peak this summer.

The Zika outbreak began in Brazil last year and is spreading rapidly in Latin America and in Caribbean nations, prompting the World Health Organization last month to declare a global public health emergency.

Zika has been linked to numerous cases of microcephaly in newborns, a condition defined by unusually small heads that can result in developmental problems.

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