Utah woman is 1st confirmed Zika-related death in continental US

A Utah woman has died after becoming infected with the Zika virus, the Salt Lake County Health Department announced Friday.

The elderly woman had an underlying health condition and had traveled to areas with mosquitoes known to spread the 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,” the Salt Lake County Health Department said on its website.

The woman died in late June. This is the first confirmed Zika-related death in the continental United States.

The Salt Lake County Health Department said in its statement that there is no threat of Zika virus infection 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.”

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Even in areas of the continental U.S. where mosquitoes capable of carrying Zika 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.