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Friday, August 31, 2022 – Health officials in Texas state have announced the death of a patient from the Monkeypox virus, the first confirmed death from the virus in the USA.
State health officials said in a statement that the adult patient was “severely immunocompromised.”
Even though health officials cautioned that it was too early to say for sure exactly what role monkeypox actually played in the death, it is the first publicly reported by health authorities in the U.S. during the current monkeypox outbreak.
“This is the first death in an presumed positive for monkeypox that we are aware of. However, the individual had various severe illnesses and until the investigation is complete, it is premature to assign a specific cause of death,” CDC spokesperson Scott Pauley said in a statement.
As of press time, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had tallied 15 deaths around the world in monkeypox patients.
Local officials said the patient died Sunday, August 28, in a hospital with “various severe illnesses” in Texas’ Harris County, and that autopsy results are expected “in the next few weeks.”
“We are sharing this information to err on the side of transparency and to avoid potential misinformation about this case,” Lina Hidalgo, Harris County’s top official, said in a statement.
More than 18,000 monkeypox cases have been reported nationwide since the outbreak began in the spring. Texas has 1,604 total infections, the fourth-most of any state.
“Monkeypox is a serious disease, particularly for those with weakened immune systems,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt, head of the state’s health department, in a statement.
While many monkeypox patients endure weeks of excruciating rashes and lesions from the virus, officials say death from the virus is rare.
The currently circulating strain of the virus is believed to be the less deadly of the two known “clades” of monkeypox, and far less dangerous than its sister virus, smallpox.
“Most people who get this form of the disease are likely to survive. However, people with weakened immune systems may be more likely to get seriously ill or die,” said Pauley.
Pauley added that the CDC is “actively working with Texas officials” to investigate the death.
The CDC says that that those who are at “increased risk for severe monkeypox disease” include children under the age of 8, people who are pregnant or immunocompromised, and people who have previously had eczema.
Among the immunocompromised Americans that health officials have been most concerned with are those living with HIV, who have made up a large share of diagnosed monkeypox infections to date.