Last Friday, health officials announced that the first death related to Zika has occurred in the continental US. An elderly patient in Utah had tested positive for Zika virus after traveling to an affected region, but because of the person’s underlying health conditions, it’s not known if the virus was the sole cause of death, or if it merely contributed.
Doctors were unable to confirm the presence of the virus until after the patient had already died. At this time, the Salt Lake County Department of Health is not revealing any further information about the patient, so their identity, and even the location where they contracted Zika, are both currently unknown.
While this case is alarming, it shouldn’t be a reason to panic. There are been 1,132 cases of Zika in the US diagnosed so far, but all of the affected patients are believed to have contracted the virus while traveling. So far, there have been no cases of the disease transmitted within US borders.
This death follows that of a Puerto Rican man back in February. Unlike the continental US, there is evidence that the infection has been transmitted by local mosquitos within the territory. The CDC is advising that pregnant women avoid traveling to Puerto Rico, and that all travelers take measures to avoid exposure to mosquitos while there.