The Salt Lake County health department in Utah said on Friday that an elderly resident who had been infected with the Zika virus while traveling to an area with active transmission of the virus died late last month.
The exact cause of death is not known, the health department said in a press release.
The resident had an undisclosed health condition and had tested positive for the Zika virus. County health officials said it may not be possible to determine how or whether the Zika infection contributed to the person’s death.
The resident was not identified. Officials of the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention could not immediately confirm that the death was related to Zika.
“While this individual did test positive for Zika virus, the exact cause of death has not been determined, and it may not be possible to determine how the Zika infection contributed to the death. Due to health privacy laws, health officials will not release further details about the individual or the individual’s travel history.”
The Salt Lake County Health Department (SLCoHD) announced today that a county resident infected with Zika virus died in late June. The deceased individual, who was elderly and had an underlying health condition, had traveled this year to an area of the world where mosquitoes are known to spread Zika virus.
While this individual did test positive for Zika virus, the exact cause of death has not been determined, and it may not be possible to determine how the Zika infection contributed to the death. Due to health privacy laws, health officials will not release further details about the individual or the individual’s travel history. This is the first confirmed Zika-related death in the continental United States.
Mosquito experts assure Salt Lake County residents that there is currently no threat of Zika virus infection from mosquitoes in the area: “The exotic mosquito species [Aedes aegypti and Aedes albopictus] capable of transmitting Zika virus are not found along the Wasatch Front,” said Dr. Ari Faraji, manager of the Salt Lake City Mosquito Abatement District. “In fact, so far this season, we have not detected those two species anywhere in Utah.”
Even in areas of the continental United States where mosquitoes capable of carrying Zika virus are found, health officials have not identified any Zika infections transmitted by local mosquitoes. For the most updated information about where mosquitoes are spreading Zika, visit the “Areas with Zika” section at CDC.gov/zika.
Health officials caution that sexual activity can also transmit Zika virus. Women who are pregnant or trying to become pregnant should not have unprotected sex with a man who has traveled recently to an area of the world where Zika virus is circulating. Women should practice abstinence or use condoms for six months after their partner’s travel or, if already pregnant, for the duration of the pregnancy.
“This unfortunate situation is a tragic reminder of how important it is to receive proper pre-travel education and to protect yourself from mosquitoes when travelling abroad,” said Dr. Dagmar Vitek, medical director for SLCoHD. “In addition to Zika, travelers need to be mindful of other diseases found around the world, including mosquito-borne illnesses like Dengue fever, malaria, and chikungunya.”
People who have traveled recently and who are concerned about any illness they may be experiencing should contact their health care provider.
The Salt Lake County Travel Clinic is available to educate travelers about preventing Zika and other diseases common in their destination. While there is no vaccine for Zika virus, the travel clinic can provide necessary immunizations and prescriptions for the prevention of other travel-related diseases. Travel Clinic appointments are available by calling 385-468-4111.