Utah man may have been infected with Zika after wiping away dying father's tears



In June, a 38-year-old Utah man contracted Zika. He had not traveled to a Zika-affected area, and doctors ruled out both a mosquito bite and sexual transmission. The man had been caring for his elderly dad, who had been infected with the disease after a trip to Mexico. The 73-year-old father, who had also recently undergone radiation treatment for prostate cancer, soon died from organ failure. The son got sick about a week after tending to his dad. The mysterious case stumped scientists, but now they believe they've uncovered the depressing and terrifying possible source of the infection: his dying father's sweat or tears.

Zika transmission through direct contact with sweat or tears hasn't been documented before, and that's alarming, but doctors cautioned that if that's how this person got Zika, it is a rare and abnormal case. The researchers, who published their findings in the New England Journal of Medicine, said the dying father had extremely high levels of the virus in his blood — about 100,000 times the normal amount, according to the Associated Press. Doctors aren't entirely sure why the 73-year-old father had such a high level of infection, but they suspect his past radiation treatment may have allowed the virus to replicate much faster than in other cases.

More on the Zika virus

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50 cities with the most risk for Zika
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50 cities with the most risk for Zika

#50. Midland, Texas

Risk level: 1.38

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Low
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 161,290

Photo courtesy: Getty

#49. Yuma, Ariz.

Risk level: 1.38

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Low
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 203,247

Photo courtesy: Getty

#48. Laredo, Texas

Risk level: 1.38

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Low
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 266,673

Photo courtesy: Getty

#47. El Paso, Texas

Risk level: 1.41

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Low
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 836,698

Photo courtesy: Getty

#46. Bakersfield, Calif.

Risk level: 1.42

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Low
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 874,589

Photo courtesy: Getty

#45. Albuquerque, New Mexico

Risk level: 1.42

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Low
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 904,587

Photo courtesy: Getty

#44. Tucson, Ariz.

Risk level: 1.42

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Low
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 1,004,516

Photo courtesy: Getty

#43. Salt Lake City, Utah

Risk level: 1.43

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Low
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 1,153,340

Photo courtesy: Getty

#42. Fresno, Calif.

Risk level: 1.93

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Low
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: 10,000-500,000
Population: 965,974

Photo courtesy: Getty

#41. Las Vegas, Nev.

Risk level: 1.99

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Low
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: 10,000-500,000
Population: 2,069,681

Photo courtesy: Getty

#40. Sacramento, Calif.

Risk level: 2

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Low
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: 10,000-500,000
Population: 2,244,397

Photo courtesy: Getty

#39. San Antonio, Texas

Risk level: 2.03

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Low
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: 10,000-500,000
Population: 2,328,652

Photo courtesy: Getty

#38. Denver, Colo.

Risk level: 2.2

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Low
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: 10,000-500,000
Population: 2,754,258

Photo courtesy: Getty

#37. San Diego, Calif.

Risk level: 2.4

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Low
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: 10,000-500,000
Population: 3,263,431

Photo courtesy: Getty

#36. Phoenix, Ariz.

Risk level: 2.89

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Low
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: 10,000-500,000
Population: 4,489,109

Photo courtesy: Getty

#35. Montgomery, Ala.

Risk level: 3.92

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Moderate
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 373,141

Photo courtesy: Getty

#34. Huntsville, Ala.

Risk level: 3.94

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Moderate
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 441,086

Photo courtesy: Getty

#33. Shreveport, La.

Risk level: 3.95

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Moderate
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 445,142

Photo courtesy: Getty

#32. Fayetteville, Ark.

Risk level: 3.97

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Moderate
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 501,653

Photo courtesy: Getty

#31. Jackson, Miss.

Risk level: 4

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Moderate
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 577,564

Photo courtesy: Getty

#30. Augusta, Ga.

Risk level: 4

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Moderate
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 583,632

Photo courtesy: Getty

#29. Little Rock, Ark.

Risk level: 4.24

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Moderate
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 729,135

Photo courtesy: Getty

#28. Columbia, SC

Risk level: 4.36

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Moderate
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 800,495

Photo courtesy: Getty

#27. Birmingham, Ala.

Risk level: 4.93

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Moderate
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 1,143,772

Photo courtesy: Getty

#26. Raleigh, NC

Risk level: 5.09

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Moderate
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 1,242,974

Photo courtesy: Getty

#25. Richmond, Va.

Risk level: 5.12

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Moderate
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 1,260,029

Photo courtesy: Getty

#24. Louisville, Ky.

Risk level: 5.13

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Moderate
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 1,269,702

Photo courtesy: Getty

#23. Oklahoma City, Okla.

Risk level: 5.25

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Moderate
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 1,336,767

Photo courtesy: Getty

#22. Memphis, Tenn.

Risk level: 5.26

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Moderate
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 1,343,230

Photo courtesy: Getty

#21. Nashville, Tenn.

Risk level: 6

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Moderate
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 1,792,649

Photo courtesy: Getty

#20. Kansas City, Mo.

Risk level: 6.04

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Moderate
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 2,071,133

Photo courtesy: Getty

#19. St. Louis, Mo.

Risk level: 6.13

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Moderate
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 2,806,207

Photo courtesy: Getty

#18. Dallas, Texas

Risk level: 7.11

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Low
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: 500,000-1,000,000
Population: 6,954,330

Photo courtesy: Getty

#17. Charlotte, NC

Risk level: 7.38

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Moderate
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: 10,000-500,000
Population: 2,380,314

Photo courtesy: Getty

#16. Washington, D.C.

Risk level: 7.86

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Moderate
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: 10,000-500,000
Population: 6,033,737

Photo courtesy: Getty

#15. Philadelphia, Pa.

Risk level: 7.86

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Moderate
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: 10,000-500,000
Population: 6,052,170

Photo courtesy: Getty

#14. Los Angeles, Calif.

Risk level: 7.93

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Low
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: 500,000-1,000,000
Population: 13,262,220

Photo courtesy: Getty

#13. Savannah, Ga.

Risk level: 7.99

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: High
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 372,708

Photo courtesy: Getty

#12. Tallahassee, Fla.

Risk level: 7.99

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: High
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 375,751

Photo courtesy: Getty

#11. Mobile, Ala.

Risk level: 8

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: High
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 415,123

Photo courtesy: Getty

#10. Charleston, SC

Risk level: 8

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: High
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 727,689

Photo courtesy: Getty

#9. New Orleans, La.

Risk level: 8.01

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: High
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 1,251,849

Photo courtesy: Getty

#8. Atlanta, Ga.

Risk level: 8.13

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Moderate
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: 500,000-1,000,000
Population: 5,614,323

Photo courtesy: Getty

#7. Houston, Texas

Risk level: 8.14

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Moderate
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: 500,000-1,000,000
Population: 6,490,180

Photo courtesy: Getty

#6. Jacksonville, Fla.

Risk level: 8.38

Mosquito level in January: Low
Mosquito level in July: High
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 1,419,127

Photo courtesy: Getty

#5. New York, NY

Risk level: 8.49

Mosquito level in January: None
Mosquito level in July: Moderate
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: 1,000,000-2,000,000
Population: 20,092,883

Photo courtesy: Getty

#4. Brownsville, Texas

Risk level: 8.86

Mosquito level in January: Low
Mosquito level in July: Moderate
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 420,392

Photo courtesy: Getty

#3. Tampa, Fla.

Risk level: 9.14

Mosquito level in January: Low
Mosquito level in July: High
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: <10,000
Population: 2,915,582

Photo courtesy: Getty

#2. Orlando, Fla.

Risk level: 9.43

Mosquito level in January: Low
Mosquito level in July: High
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: 500,000-1,000,000
Population: 2,321,418

Photo courtesy: Getty

#1. Miami, Fla.

Risk level: 10

Mosquito level in January: Moderate
Mosquito level in July: High
Number of people traveling to the U.S. from Zika countries: 1,000,000-2,000,000
Population: 5,929,819

Photo courtesy: Getty

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After the son became sick, he told doctors that he wiped away his dad's tears and helped nurses move his dad, but he did not wear gloves while doing so, unlike the medical staff. None of the doctors or nurses treating the man got sick. A few relatives also were bitten by Zika-carrying mosquitoes on that trip to Mexico, but none appeared to come down with as serious a bout of the disease. Luckily, the 38-year-old man's Zika infection also appeared to be relatively mild, and he recovered.

But, again, doctors cautioned that these are just clues in an atypical case. "There's no risk of shaking hands with a person who has a typical Zika infection," said one of the doctors who treated both father and son.So, hold off on the Ebola gear for now.

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