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First Zika-related Death in Continental United States

As Congress debates action to combat the virus, a patient in Salt Lake County, Utah has lost the fight against Zika.

As Congress debates action to combat the virus, a patient in Salt Lake County, Utah has lost the fight against Zika.

Congress has been stalling a bill that would grant $1.1 billion to combat Zika. The funds would be geared towards diagnostic testing and vaccination efforts. This amount falls short of the original $1.9 billion requested by the Obama administration in early February. With just a few days before Congress goes on summer recess, the bill is up for a re-vote.

Late last month, an elderly Salt Lake County resident died from Zika-related complications. This would be the first Zika-related death in the continental United States. However, health officials have stated that the patient did have serious underlying health conditions that may have contributed to the patient’s death, but there is no way to know for certain. Dagmar Vitek, MD, medical officer, Salt Lake City Health Department, stated, “We know [that Zika] contributed to the death, but we don’t know if it was the sole cause.” Gary Edwards, MS, executive director at the Utah Department of Health confirmed that the patient did test positive for the Zika virus, but that the results returned after the patient’s death.

The patient did not contract the infection within the United States, but rather during a trip to a region with active Zika transmission. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were notified of the death and released a statement confirming the mode of infection.

There are currently 1,133 individuals within the continental United States who are infected with Zika, and more than 2,000 in US territories where there is active Zika transmission. With the coming months it is possible that the Aedes aegypti population within the United States may become infected with Zika. There is currently no vaccine or treatment for infection with the Zika virus; however, there are efforts in development. Nonetheless, government funding may hasten these efforts.