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Eighth case of Zika virus confirmed in Utah; two patients currently pregnant

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Posted at 10:17 PM, Jul 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-07-22 08:45:02-04

UTAH -- A new case of the Zika virus was confirmed in Utah Thursday afternoon, bringing the number of people infected in the state up to eight. Two of those patients are currently pregnant.

This is the third local Zika case announced in a matter of weeks. While there's currently no threat of contracting the virus while in Utah, experts say that doesn't mean it's not coming.

“Rather than hoping it never happens to you, we’re just trying to be prepared,” said Steven Mickelson, Director of Nurses for the Utah County Health Department.

The disease is creeping across the country. It was only a matter of time, the Utah County Health Department says, before they would see their first Zika case.

“This happens to be a mom that's going to have a child, and we’re as concerned as she is,” Mickelson said.

The Zika virus is linked to rare and severe birth defects. The county's health department says the woman tested positive for the virus after meeting with her doctor, who noticed her travel history. Now health experts are keeping a close eye on her.

“She’s going to be with her obstetrician, regular check ups and ultrasounds to see how the baby is progressing,” Mickelson said.

Half of the eight Zika cases in Utah have been pregnant women. The two who have already delivered haven't had any defects. Two others are still pregnant.

“There’s so much we don’t know,” said Rebecca Ward, an epidemiology specialist with UDOH.

This new case comes on the heels of the first Zika-related death in the continental U.S. That individual was an elderly person and a resident of Salt Lake County. That was followed by a medical mystery, where that person's caregiver, who did not travel abroad, was also found to be infected.

“We do the best we can to investigate the cases that occur, try to determine what the threat may be, and to reduce any potential threat and any adverse outcomes," Ward said.

Meanwhile, mosquito abatement programs are working to be two steps ahead of the invasive, exotic mosquitoes.

“We know that these invasive mosquitoes are notorious for hitching rides around the globe, and we’ve been ready for their imminent arrival,” said Ary Faraji, a manager for the SLC Abatement District.

That means it's not a question of if, but when, the mosquitoes who could carry the virus get to Utah.

“It’s very important for us to have a proactive surveillance in place, and that way we can detect their presence quickly, because our only offense is to have a proactive plan in place and detect them and respond to them quickly before they become established,” Faraji said.

Thursday, the CDC gave Utah nearly a million dollars to help health departments and abatement programs fight Zika.