U.S health officials confirmed that a resident of Utah whose death occurred last month (June) was the first ever Zika-related death in continental U.S.
The County Health Department of Salt Lake stated that the elderly person suffered from an underlying health condition. The index case, who had earlier traveled to a Zika-affected state this year, tested positive for Zika virus, the department said. Currently, the exact cause of death hasn’t been determined.
“We are aware that Zika contributed to the cause of death, but we do not know if it was the only cause,” officer Dagmar Vitek said in the news conference.
The department’s executive director, Gary Edwards said officials found out about the case while going through death certificates. Lab tests conducted in Utah showed the presence of Zika virus, “but the results were not ready until the person died” he stated.
Due to health privacy concerns, the officials could not provide further details on the case.
The CDC stated on Friday that it was notified of the death. Earlier in the year, the CDC reported the first ever U.S death from Zika in Puerto Rico. The man, who was septuagenarian, died from complications of severe thrombocytopenia, the immune reaction to the virus which caused reduced levels of platelets which help blood clot.
The virus is spread mainly through the bite of an infected Aedes Albopictus or Aedes Aegypti mosquito. The County health officials said neither species are present in the area. Zika virus can also be spread by sexual intercourse. About 80% of individuals who become infected will have no symptoms, while the rest may have mild symptoms which last for a few days or a week.
However, in rare cases, Zika virus has been linked to the nervous system disorder that causes muscle weakness and paralysis. It is even more deadly in pregnancy.
Federal, state and other local officials are preparing for a possible local spread of Zika.