Tuesday, July 19, 2016

A Medical Mystery

A Zika case in Utah has epidemiologists scrambling for answers:
SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — A person who cared for a Zika-infected relative in Utah also got the virus, but exactly how it was transmitted is a medical mystery, health officials announced Monday.
The tropical mosquito that mainly spreads Zika isn't found in the high-altitude area with cold winters where the two lived, Salt Lake County Health Department officials said. They didn't have sexual contact, which is how the virus is typically spread between adults when there's no mosquito bite or mother-to-child transmission.
"The new case in Utah is a surprise, showing that we still have more to learn about Zika," Centers for Disease Control and Prevention medical epidemiologist Dr. Erin Staples said.
The caregiver has fully recovered, but authorities did not give further details. The person cared for an elderly man who contracted the disease overseas where mosquitoes are known to spread Zika and who became the first Zika-infected person to die in the continental U.S.
The caregiver did not travel to an affected area, but it's possible that a mosquito came back with the relative, perhaps in a suitcase, CDC Director Tom Frieden said.
The man who died in late June had an unusually high level of the virus in his blood, more than 100,000 times higher than other samples of infected people. Health workers are testing others who had contact with him, and officials are trapping mosquitoes in Utah to test them.
The new case was discovered after a doctor noticed the caregiver's Zika-like symptoms, which include rash, fever and pink eye, officials said. The relative had cared for the elderly man both at home and in the hospital.
It was unclear exactly how the older man died because of his age and another health condition he suffered, according to the CDC. The agency did not immediately revise its advice to health care workers or caregivers after the new case emerged.
"Based on what we know so far about this case, there is no evidence that there is any risk of Zika virus transmission among the general public in Utah," said Dr. Angela Dunn, deputy state epidemiologist at the Utah Department of Health.
This will be a fascinating case study. In the meantime, should caregivers and medical personnel gown & glove when treating patients infected with Zika? It might be a prudent precaution. since the virus is found in blood, urine, and saliva.

Additionally, I'm wondering if a Utah skeeter could have transmitted the virus from the old man to his relative. Could the virus live long enough in the host non-tropical mosquito for that to happen? Stay tuned!

Worried? Who, me? Pfft!

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