Cases of the Zika virus continue to appear in Utah according to the Utah Department of Health. With the mosquito season affecting parts of the U.S., epidemiologists are paying close attention.
So far, 29 people have tested positive for Zika in Utah. Everyone who was infected got the disease while traveling outside the U.S.
Dallin Peterson is an epidemiologist with the Utah Department of Health. He’s watching local infection rates closely.
"Right now we’re kind of ramping up for mosquito season. Partnering up with the mosquito abatements across the state to make sure that they have their necessary traps to look for these mosquitos if they decide to come into Utah," Peterson says.
Peterson says the species that most commonly carries the virus, Aedes aegypti, isn’t usually found in Utah. But in Texas and Florida mosquitos in the local environment have been found to carry the virus.
"I think this mosquito season all the eyes will be on these southern states to see how the invasive Aedes species comes into the other states," Peterson says.
Zika infection usually causes mild symptoms in adults, lasting for about a week. The health department’s main concern is pregnant women who could pass the disease on to their babies, which could cause related birth defects like microcephaly, when babies are born with abnormally small heads.
Of the 29 Zika cases in Utah, 11 have been of pregnant women. Epidemiologists at the Utah Birth Defect Network believe all those babies have been born normally or had complications unrelated to the virus, as well as one mother who left the U.S., and whose infection status is unknown.
Peterson says tracking these cases and working with mosquito abatement programs are helping them set a baseline for Zika in Utah.
"You know even a year, two years into this, we’re still learning a lot from it," he says.
This upcoming season after a wet winter, he says, will teach them even more.