Bodily fluids may have potential to spread Zika, case study suggests

Bodily fluids such as tears, saliva, vomit, urine or stool may have the potential to transmit Zika, suggest the findings of an investigation into a highly irregular Zika case in Utah which produced the first death from the Zika virus in the United States.

The preliminary findings from the investigation were examined the most recent issue of the CDC's Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report.

On July 8, the Salt Lake County Health Department confirmed the death of an elderly man infected with the Zika virus while traveling abroad. It was the first such death in the U.S. Blood samples taken two days prior to the man's death displayed levels of Zika 100,000 times greater than the average level detected.

The Utah case took a strange turn when the man's son — who was caring for his ill father — contracted the virus in an unknown manner.

After an epidemiological evaluation of family contacts, blood tests of healthcare workers and community members who may have come into contact with the elderly man and mosquito surveillance in the area, experts were unable to determine the source of the caretaker's infection. The son reportedly hugged and kissed the patient and helped hold his father when his stool was being cleaned by healthcare workers.

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The investigation has led experts to conclude that transmission of the Zika virus via bodily fluids may be possible.

"It does raise the possibility that there was potential exposure to the blood and bodily fluids of the index patient, and that could have led to transmission of the second case," Alexander Kallen, MD, a CDC medical officer, told The Washington Post.

The investigation into the case will remain open as the lack of additional cases related to the peculiar transmission has stymied experts and rendered a decisive conclusion as to the mode of transmission unreachable for the moment.

"This investigation will remain active, and we will continue working to learn more about Zika virus and how it may be spread," said Dagmar Vitek, MD, medical director of the SLCoHD. "People should continue to take the appropriate steps to prevent Zika virus infection — especially pregnant women and healthcare workers who are caring for severely ill patients with the disease."

More articles on the Zika virus: 
Previous immunities may protect Southeast Asia from Zika: 4 things to know 
Nearly 700 pregnant women in US have Zika 
Biden calls for direct vote on Zika bill

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