Texas confirms death of monkeypox patient, but cause of death still under investigation

An adult Harris County, Texas resident who was diagnosed with monkeypox has died, state health officials said Tuesday.

The patient was severely immunocompromised, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services, and died at a Harris County hospital.

The official cause of death is still unknown. Although that person was presumed positive for monkeypox, it remains unclear if the person’s death was due or related to monkeypox, officials said.

“What we are looking to determine is the specific cause of death. We know this patient had monkeypox as a diagnosis, what we don’t know for sure is that the patient died of smallpox. monkey,” county officials said at a news conference Tuesday.

The case is currently being investigated to “determine what role monkeypox may play [have] played in death,” according to state officials. An autopsy is underway and the final report will be available in the coming weeks, according to the Harris County Health Department.

“Monkeypox is a serious disease, especially for people with weakened immune systems,” DSHS commissioner Dr. John Hellerstedt said in a statement. “We continue to urge people to seek treatment if they have been exposed to monkeypox or have symptoms consistent with the disease.”

Local Harris County officials said they are working with state and federal health officials from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to investigate the matter.

PHOTO: A colorized transmission electron micrograph shows monkeypox particles (red) found in an infected cell (blue), cultured in a lab that was captured and color-enhanced at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility in Fort Detrick, Md.

A colorized transmission electron micrograph shows monkeypox particles (red) found in an infected cell (blue), cultured in a lab that was captured and color-enhanced at the NIAID Integrated Research Facility in Fort Detrick, Md.


“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 wrote in a statement. “The best way for us to fight this virus is through vaccines. Our goal is always to get as many people who qualify as vaccinated as quickly as possible – I have always believed that vaccines are the key to reducing the spread.”

Officials have urged anyone who is immunocompromised to consider getting vaccinated, as they are at higher risk of serious illness.

“Monkey pox can affect immunocompromised people, and for this reason we would certainly encourage anyone who meets the criteria, including being immunocompromised, to get vaccinated,” officials added.

In a statement to ABC News, a CDC representative wrote that the agency was aware of the reported death and was working with Texas officials to investigate.

“Our thoughts are with the family during this heartbreaking time,” the rep said.

CDC officials have warned that the strain of monkeypox responsible for the current outbreak is “rarely fatal” and that most people infected with this form of the disease will likely survive.

However, officials wrote that people with weakened immune systems were at higher risk of becoming seriously ill or dying.

During a Tuesday press briefing, officials from the White House Monkeypox Response Team further pointed out that “only a handful” of monkeypox deaths have been reported worldwide throughout the world. current epidemic.

“This is serious and our thoughts are certainly with this family who have lost a loved one, and as we investigate further to find out what role monkeypox may have played, it is important to focus on the fact that we have mitigation measures in place to prevent monkeypox,” said CDC Monkeypox Incident Response Manager Dr. Jennifer McQuiston.

So far, the majority of cases in the current monkeypox outbreak have been detected in gay, bisexual, or other men who have sex with men. However, officials point out that anyone exposed to the virus can become infected with monkeypox.

Worldwide, nearly 49,000 cases of monkeypox have now been reported, including 18,100 cases in the United States – the most of any country, according to the CDC.

Monkeypox is primarily spread through prolonged skin-to-skin contact with the lesions or bodily fluids of infected people, according to the CDC. The virus can also spread through bedding and towels contaminated with infected lesions.

In addition to lesions, which can appear as pimples or blisters, the most common symptoms associated with monkeypox are swollen lymph nodes, fever, headache, fatigue, and muscle aches.

Sony Salzman and ABC News’ Justin Gomez contributed to this report.

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