Zika Outbreak Updates: Puerto Rico Declares State of Emergency

PHOTO: An Aedes Aegypti mosquito seen on a human hand in a lab of the International Training and Medical Research Training Center in Cali, Colombia, Feb. 2, 2016. PlayJaime Saldarriaga/Reuters
WATCH Several Deaths in Colombia Linked to Zika Virus

As the Zika virus outbreak continues, including in wide swaths of Central and South America, concerns are growing, especially for pregnant women because the mosquito-borne virus has been linked with a serious birth defect called microcephaly, characterized by an abnormally small head and brain.

Here are the latest updates about the outbreak, which the World Health Organization has deemed a "global health emergency."

Puerto Rico Declares State of Emergency

Puerto Rico has declared a state of emergency due to the ongoing Zika virus outbreak. The U.S. territory has at least 22 people who have been reported to have been infected with the Zika virus, health officials said.

The State Emergency and Disaster Administration is creating a task force for both federal and state officials to deal with the crisis.

Additionally, a price freeze has been ordered for products needed to prevent the disease, according to government officials.

New Zika Virus Cases Include Pregnant Woman, Man With Paralysis Syndrome

In Puerto Rico, a pregnant woman in her first trimester was diagnosed with the disease, health officials said. In addition, a man has also been diagnosed with Zika and has developed a rare paralysis syndrome sometimes associated with viral or bacterial infection.

Called Guillain-Barre syndrome, it is an immunological reaction that has been associated with influenza, among other illnesses.

At least 22 people who have been reported to have been infected with the Zika virus in Puerto Rico, health officials said.

FDA Signals New Recommendations on Blood Transfusions Likely

In a statement to ABC News, officials from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration said they intend to "rapidly implement appropriate donor deferral recommendations" to safeguard the donated blood supply in the U.S.

“Blood donor deferrals serve as an important measure to protect the United States’ blood supply," FDA officials said in a statement. "The FDA also intends to put in place recommendations to help maintain a safe blood supply in United States territories where the virus is present. In the meantime, we fully support the blood banking industry’s voluntary recommendations that potential blood donors be deferred for 28 days after returning from travel to areas where Zika is endemic.”

Sexually Transmitted Zika Case Prompts CDC to Issue New Guidelines

After the Zika virus was transmitted through sexual contact in Dallas, Texas, officials from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new guidelines today for travelers to and from outbreak regions.

The CDC advises men with a pregnant partner to use condoms if they have traveled to an area with "active Zika virus transmission."

Additionally, couples where a male partner who has traveled to an area with Zika transmission "may consider using condoms consistently and correctly during sex or abstaining from sexual activity," if they are concerned about sexual transmission of the Zika virus.

At Least 54 People Infected in the U.S.

There are at least 54 people infected with the Zika virus in the U.S. In all except one case, the infection was acquired while out of the country, according to health officials.

In one case in Dallas, Texas, the virus is believed to have been transmitted through sexual contact from an infected traveler to a partner.

Florida has the highest number of cases in the U.S., with 12 people infected. Florida Gov. Rick Scott has declared a state of emergency in five counties and ordered thousands of tests that will help identify the disease.

What Does the Virus Do?

Common symptoms of the Zika virus include fever, rash, joint pain and conjunctivitis, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Approximately one in five people infected with the virus show symptoms. Severe complications from the virus that require hospitalization are rare, according to the CDC.

The virus has also been associated with a rise of microcephaly birth defect cases.

The CDC is also investigating if a rare paralysis syndrome called Guillain-Barre is related to the virus. The syndrome is an immunological reaction that can also occur after other viral or bacterial infections.

How Is It Transmitted?

The virus is transmitted mainly through the bite of the Aedes aegypti species of mosquito. This is the same type of mosquito that spreads dengue fever. The Aedes albopictus species has also been identified as a potential carrier.

Before the current outbreak, the virus had been found mainly in tropical settings in Africa, Southeast Asia and the Pacific Islands. An outbreak of the disease in Brazil led to an alert by the Pan American Health Organization last May.

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