A person in Utah who did not travel to a Zika-affected country or have sex with someone who did is nevertheless infected with the virus, health authorities in the state confirm. Health officials are investigating how the person could have been infected.
The Salt Lake County Health Department has released limited information about the individual, but said the person cared for somebody who had been infected with Zika during travel and later died from unknown causes. Labs in Utah and at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), confirmed the infections. CDC officials are helping Utah experts investigate the case.
Local transmission of the Zika virus has not yet been reported or confirmed anywhere in the United States, though some spread is expected in the country. The new Zika case is the eighth reported in Utah so far. “The investigation is focused on determining how the eighth case became infected after having contact with the deceased patient who had a uniquely high amount of virus in the blood,” the health department said in a statement. The CDC said the deceased person had virus levels in their blood that were more than 100,000 times higher than amounts seen in other people with Zika infections.
Currently, Zika is only known to be transmitted by mosquito bites, or sex with an infected person.
“The new case in Utah is a surprise, showing that we still have more to learn about Zika,” Dr. Erin Staples, the CDC’s medical epidemiologist on the ground in Utah, said in a statement. “Fortunately, the patient recovered quickly, and from what we have seen with more than 1,300 travel-associated cases of Zika in the continental United States and Hawaii, non-sexual spread from one person to another does not appear to be common.”
Health experts are interviewing the person who is infected as well as family contacts to learn more about the interactions with the person who died with a Zika infection. Samples are also being collected from family members and other people who had contact with the deceased individual.