iStock/Thinkstock(SALT LAKE CITY) — An elderly Utah resident is the first person in the continental U.S. to die while being infected with the Zika virus. The cause of death is unknown and the unnamed resident had an underlying health condition, according to the Salt Lake County Health Department.
The health department announced Friday that the unnamed resident, who traveled outside the country to where mosquitoes are known to carry the virus, died in late June. Although the virus has been found to cause devastating birth defects, in adults the virus usually causes mild symptoms such as fever, rash and pink eye that resolve in less than a week. Only one in five of those infected exhibit symptoms. Health officials highlighted that it was unclear if the Zika virus had any role in the patient’s death.
“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,” they said.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has reported at least 1,133 cases of Zika infections within the U.S. Virtually all were cases where a person traveled outside the U.S. and became infected by mosquitoes aboard. In a small number of cases, the virus was transmitted through sexual contact within the U.S. There have been no cases of people being infected from mosquitoes within the continental U.S.
“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 traveling abroad,” said Dr. Dagmar Vitek, medical director for Salt Lake County Health Department. “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.”
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