SALT LAKE CITY - The first case of the Zika virus has been confirmed in Utah.
Utah public health officials said they received confirmation from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that a Utah resident has tested positive for the Zika virus.
The patient, a child between the ages of 2 and 10 years old, recently traveled to an affected country before returning to Utah, according to the Utah Department of Health.
Officials said the child had symptoms, 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,” Dr. Allyn Nakashima said, State Epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health.
She said, “Zika virus, with the possible link to the birth defect microcephaly, is understandably frightening.”
Since there is no vaccine to prevent Zika virus, and no specific medical treatment for those who are infected, the UDOH is urging all who may be considering travel to the growing number of affected countries to take the necessary precautions to avoid mosquito bites.
Health officials said the Zika virus is transmitted to humans primarily through the bite of an infected Aedes species mosquito.
The mosquito that is spreading the virus in the affected countries is not currently found in Utah.
The disease isn’t fatal, but pregnant women are especially at risk.
“The Zika virus has been linked to the baby having a small head. It’s called microcephaly, said registered nurse Alfred Romeo.
Romeo, who runs the Utah Department of Health’s Pregnancy Risk Line MotherToBaby program, is urging pregnant women who call in to hold off on traveling Zika-affected countries.
“If they must travel to those areas for work or other needs, make sure they’re protecting themselves from those mosquitoes that are down there,” he said.
Congressman Chris Stewart has introduced the Zika Response and Safety Act, which would allow federal agencies like the CDC and Department of Health to immediately use funding to research and fight Zika.
Stewart’s bill would take money previously allocated to fight the Ebola virus in 2014 and allow the federal agencies to use it to find a vaccine for the Zika Virus.
Stewart said $2.7 billion is left over from the Ebola funding.
Zika can be sexually transmitted, although there is limited data about the risk.
Health experts said the virus generally only causes fever, rash, joint pain and red eyes, and is almost always a very mild illness.
Most people won’t require testing; about 80 percent of those infected never show any symptoms of the disease, while approximately 20 percent will have only mild symptoms.
Public health officials encourage pregnant women to postpone traveling to affected areas, if possible, or talk to their health care provider before considering travel.
For anyone who is planning to visit the affected countries, prevention is the best approach to avoiding Zika virus infection.
The Utah Dept. of Health said 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.
The UDOH and CDC said they are closely monitoring the situation.
Women who are pregnant and have questions about Zika virus can call the MotherToBaby program at 800-822-2229, text 855-999-3525, or chat live or email here.