HEALTH

New York City sending 1 million condoms to Puerto Rico to combat Zika

Condoms labeled like the city's subway lines to be given out for free by New York city's health department sit in a bowl inside a Kenneth Cole store, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2007 in New York. Fashion designer Kenneth Cole joined in the campaign and designed special clothing with tiny pockets to hold the condoms. With the unveiling of the NYC Condom, New York became the first in the nation with an official brand. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)

Condoms labeled like the city's subway lines to be given out for free by New York city's health department sit in a bowl inside a Kenneth Cole store, Wednesday, Feb. 14, 2007 in New York. Fashion designer Kenneth Cole joined in the campaign and designed special clothing with tiny pockets to hold the condoms. With the unveiling of the NYC Condom, New York became the first in the nation with an official brand. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens)  (ap)

In an effort to help combat the spread of the Zika virus in Puerto Rico, New York City plans to donate one million condoms to the U.S. territory.

Officials in the Big Apple, which is home to the largest Puerto Rican community in the country, announced that they will donate one million of the NYC Department of Health’s “NYC Condoms” to the local Puerto Rico Department of Health.

“As the Zika virus epidemic spreads and we continue to learn more about the risk of sexual transmission and birth defects, we wanted to use our resources to help our longstanding partners in Puerto Rico,” Health Commissioner Mary Bassett wrote to her Puerto Rican counterpart, Ana Ríus Armendáriz, according to the New York Daily News.

Last week, Puerto Rico recorded its first Zika-related death amid an outbreak of the mosquito-borne virus.

Officials said the unidentified man recovered from initial Zika symptoms, but then developed a condition in which antibodies that formed in reaction to the Zika infection started attacking blood platelet cells. He died after suffering internal bleeding.

The U.S. territory has seen more than 600 Zika cases, with 73 of those involving pregnant women. Zika can cause severe birth defects, such as babies being born with abnormally small heads. Rius said all 14 pregnant women infected with Zika who have given birth have had healthy babies.

Sixteen people have been hospitalized and four are believed to have developed a temporary paralysis condition known as Guillain-Barre because of Zika.

"For too long American citizens in Puerto Rico have received second-class treatment," said New York City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, according to the New York Daily News. "The Zika virus poses a serious threat across the globe and the high infection rates in Puerto Rico are a somber reminder that Congress must grant Puerto Rico as much health care funding as it provides to all other U.S. Citizens."

This is not the first time that New York’s condoms have ended up in the Caribbean.

Back in 2014, the condoms – which are distributed for free in the New York – were found in the Dominican Republic being sold for 50 cents apiece.

Since the city’s health department began the program back in 2007, it has handed out around 340 million condoms, with the city giving away $37 million in 2014 alone.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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