Health officials in Texas announced this week that an adult in Harris County who was diagnosed with monkeypox has died, marking the first death in the United States since the disease was declared a public health emergency.
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According to press releases from the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) and from Harris County Public Health (HCPH), the person who died was an adult in Harris County who was "severely immunocompromised" and had "various severe illnesses."
Currently, health officials said the cause of the patient's death is unknown and HCPH is "collaborating with partners to determine what role, if any, monkeypox may have played" in the death. The individual died in a Harris County hospital, and according to HCPH, an autopsy is underway and results should be available "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," Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said in a statement. "The best way for us to fight this virus is through vaccines. Our goal is still to get as many people who qualify vaccinated as quickly as possible."
"Monkeypox is a serious disease, particularly for those with weakened immune systems," said John Hellerstadt, DSHS commissioner. "We continue to urge people to seek treatment if they have been exposed to monkeypox or have symptoms consistent with the disease."
So far, CDC has reported more than 18,000 cases of monkeypox in the United States with no deaths. The World Health Organization has reported almost 50,000 cases with 15 deaths worldwide.
"It's important to emphasize that deaths due to monkeypox, while possible, remain very rare. In most cases, people are experiencing infection that resolves over time," said Jennifer McQuiston, incident manager for CDC's monkeypox response. "It's serious and our hearts certainly go out to this family who have lost a loved one."
McQuiston added that "[a]dditional investigation is needed to know what role monkeypox may or may not have played" in the person's death and that CDC will "be reporting that out as soon as we have more information." (DSHS release, 8/30; HCPH release, 8/29; Nirappil, Washington Post, 8/30; Stanton, USA Today, 8/30)
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