July 11, 2016 -- An elderly resident of Utah who died at the end of June is the first fatality in the continental United States linked to infection with the Zika virus, local health officials said Friday.
The resident, whose name and age were not revealed, had traveled to an undisclosed destination where Zika is endemic, CNN reported.
In a news release, Dr. Dagmar Vitek, medical director for the Salt Lake County Department of Health, said the patient "had an underlying medical condition and tested positive for Zika, so we know it contributed to [the death], but we don't know that it was the sole cause [of death]. It may not be possible to determine how the Zika infection contributed to the death."
Gary Edwards, executive director of the Salt Lake County Department of Health, told CNN that his agency didn't realize that Zika was involved in the patient's case until a review of the death certificate.
The Utah case is not the first U.S. death to be linked to Zika. In February, a 70-year-old Puerto Rico man died from complications related to the virus, CNN noted.
The Zika virus has also been linked to 1,132 U.S. cases of infection tied to travel outside the country. Right now there are no cases of the disease being transmitted within the continental United States, according to health officials.
The Zika virus is transmitted via mosquito bites and is also thought to be transmitted via sex. It is known to be the cause of devastating birth defects, including microcephaly, in which babies are born with too-small heads and impaired brain development. Thousands of such cases have been recorded so far in Latin America, especially Brazil.