The continental U.S. has had its first Zika-related death. Salt Lake County officials said a patient who died at the end of June had a Zika virus infection that contributed to her death.
Zika is almost never fatal, but it’s been known to kill people. An elderly Puerto Rican man died in April from Zika complications.
The virus is not yet spreading in the United States but health officials say thousands of people have carried it back with them from affected countries in Central and South America. The patient, who has not been identified in any way, had been traveling to a Zika-affected zone, health officials in Utah told a news conference.
"This person had an underlying medical condition and tested positive for Zika,” Dr Dagmar Vitek of the Salt Lake County HealthDepartment told a news conference.
“We know it contributed but don’t know if it was the sole cause (of death).”
The officials said they found out about the case by checking death certificates.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it wasn’t clear how much of a role Zika played in the death. Zika normally causes very mild symptoms — at the worst a rash and a fever.
"CDC has been notified by public health officials in Utah of the death of a resident who developed Zika virus infection after travel to an area with ongoing Zika transmission," the agency said in a statement.
"Laboratory tests conducted in Utah were positive for Zika; however, the exact cause of death has not been determined."
The Salt Lake County officials said Utah doesn't have the Aedes aegypti mosquitoes that carry Zika virus so they are not worried it would or could spread there.
The risk is to pregnant women. If a pregnant woman becomes infected with Zika, it can cause severe birth defects in the baby.