Texas health officials announced Tuesday that they were investigating whether monkeypox played a role in the death of an immunocompromised adult. If confirmed, it would be the first death from the virus in the United States.
Monkeypox deaths are relatively rare, and the vast majority of those diagnosed with the virus have recovered. Fifteen people have died worldwide from monkeypox, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Health officials in Harris County, Texas, announced Monday that the person with a presumptive case of monkeypox had “various severe illnesses.” Health officials were investigating how monkeypox may have contributed to the person’s death. The patient was an adult who was severely immunocompromised, the Texas Department of State Health Services said.
“We are sharing this information to err on the side of transparency and to avoid potential misinformation about this case,” said Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo.
The person died in the hospital, and autopsy results were expected in the next few weeks. The patient’s identity was not released. The Harris County Public Health Department is partnering with the CDC, it said.
The White House held a briefing Tuesday afternoon on the federal response to the outbreak and addressed the case in Texas.
“Additional investigation is needed to know what role monkeypox may or may not have played in their death. So we’ll be reporting that out as soon as we have more information,” said Jennifer McQuiston, the CDC’s monkeypox response incident manager.
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There are 18,101 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the country, and 93% of cases are occurring among men who reported recent sexual contact with men, according to the CDC. Early data has also shown that Black and Hispanic people are disproportionately contracting the virus.
“Monkeypox is a serious disease, particularly for those with weakened immune systems,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt, Department of State Health Services commissioner. “We continue to urge people to seek treatment if they have been exposed to monkeypox or have symptoms consistent with the disease.”
Symptoms of monkeypox include fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes and rashes or lesions, according to the CDC. Public health officials are recommending vaccination for people who have been exposed to monkeypox and people who may be more likely to contract the virus.
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Monkeypox case in Texas being investigated after patient dies