Health officials from Utah have reported that an elderly patient who died at the end of June was related to the Zika Virus, making it the first Zika related death in the US. The Utah resident of Salt Lake County had just traveled to an undisclosed Zika endemic destination.
While the exact cause of death remains unknown, the person did have an underlying medical disease and tested positive for the Zika virus. Officials say that the Zika virus did contribute to his death but are not claiming that it was the sole factor for the mortality. Dr Dagmar Vitek, medical director for the Salt Lake Country Department of Health said, “It may not be possible to determine how the Zika infection contributed to the death.”
The presence of the Zika virus in this patient was only confirmed after death and officials only learnt about the Zika related death after reviewing his death certificate.
Because of patient privacy laws and HIPPA, health officials said no additional medical information about the patient would be released.
So far, there have been no locally transmitted cases of the Zika virus in the USA. There have been a total of 1,132 cases of Zika virus in Americans but all have been related to travel according to the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention.
The Zika virus first came to prominence in Central and South America where it has been shown to cause severe brain deformities in newborns when the virus is acquired during pregnancy. The Zika virus is transmitted by the Aedes Aegypti and the Aedes Albopictus mosquitoes, neither of which has been found in Utah.
Recent reports indicate that the Zika virus can cause several types of neurological syndromes including the Guillain Barre Syndrome, where the individual develops temporary paralysis. In the early 2016, a 70-year-old resident from Puerto Rico died from complications of the Zika virus.
The CDC has a travel advisory for people who travel to the Zika endemic countries most of which are located in South and Central America. It now appears that besides the mosquitoes, the Zika virus may also be sexually transmitted. Visitors who travel to these countries are urged to wear condoms during sexual intercourse.