First case of Zika virus reported in Utah

In a medical mystery, health officials announced Monday that a caregiver of a Utah Zika patient contracted the virus, July 18, 2016 |Stock images, St. George News

ST. GEORGE — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has confirmed the first case of Zika virus in a Utah resident.

The case involves a child between the ages of two and 10  years old who recently traveled to an affected country. No other information was released about the patient. The child experienced symptoms upon return to Utah, including the typical rash, and has not experienced any complications.

“It isn’t surprising that Utah has an imported case of Zika virus since so many of our residents travel to and from areas where the disease is currently being transmitted,” state epidemiologist Dr. Allyn Nakashima with the Utah Department of Health said. “Zika virus, with the possible link to the birth defect microcephaly, is understandably frightening.”

The bite of an infected mosquito not found in Utah is the primary means of transmission of the virus, although sexual transmission is possible but unlikely. Fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes are symptoms of the disease.

The CDC reports that Zika virus is almost always a mild illness and 80 percent of those infected will not show any signs of the disease. The other 20 percent will only have mild symptoms. Most people infected will not even require testing for the virus, a Utah Department of Health spokesperson said in a press release.

“The reason we’re not too concerned is that this isn’t a readily transmitted disease person to person,” said David Heaton, Southern Utah Health Department public information officer. “The flu would be much worse. Most people that get Zika won’t even know they have it.”

Since there is no vaccine to prevent Zika virus, and no specific medical treatment for those who are infected, the health department is urging all who may consider travel to the growing number of affected countries to take precautions to avoid mosquito bites.

For anyone who does plan to visit the affected countries, the best approach to avoiding Zika virus infection is prevention. Steps to prevent mosquito bites include using insect repellents containing DEET, wearing long-sleeved shirts and long pants, and removing standing water where mosquitoes live and breed.

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Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

 

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