A person infected with Zika has died in Utah, and while the exact cause is unclear, authorities believe that it marks the first death related to the virus in the continental region of the United States.
The unidentified Salt Lake County resident contracted the virus while travelling abroad to an area with a Zika outbreak, health officials stated.
The patient, who died in late June, was elderly and also suffered from another health condition, according to the Salt Lake County health department.
The person had Zika symptoms including rash, fever and conjunctivitis, but there is no clairty on how the virus contributed to the death, according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention spokesman Benjamin Haynes.
Officials discovered the case while reviewing death certificates, and lab tests confirmed their suspicions, Gary Edwards, executive director of the Salt Lake County health department stated.
Utah authorities refused to release additional information about the patient, citing health privacy laws.
No cases of locally transmitted, mosquito-borne Zika have previously been reported in the continental United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, so this represents a significant incident in the potential spread of the virus.
However, a 70-year-old man from the San Juan metro area in the US territory of Puerto Rico had died back in late February.
Officials indicated htat he recovered from initial Zika symptoms, but then developed a condition in which antibodies that formed in reaction to the Zika infection started attacking blood platelet cells.
Internal bleeding was ultimately responsible for his passing.
More than 1,100 Zika illnesses have been reported in the 50 states and the District of Columbia, including six in Salt Lake County, according to official resports.
The US Centers for Disease Control has also been tracking pregnant women infected with Zika, and says it has five reports of pregnancy losses because of miscarriage, stillbirth or abortion.
In January 2016, the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention issued travel guidance on affected countries, including the use of enhanced precautions, and guidelines for pregnant women including considering postponing travel.
Other governments or health agencies also issued similar travel warnings, while Colombia, the Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, and Jamaica advised women to postpone getting pregnant until more is known about the risks.
Zika has garnered particular headlines with relation to the forthcoming Rio Olympics, with many top athletes pulling out of the games due to health concerns.