Texas reports death tied to monkeypox, a first in the US

Texas health officials on Tuesday reported the death of a person with monkeypox — what appears to be the first fatal case in the United States during the unprecedented global outbreak of the virus.

The unidentified person was a resident of Harris County, which is home to Houston, and was “severely immunocompromised,” according to the state health department. The agency released few other details — including the person’s sex and age — but said it was an adult.

Harris County authorities said the person had “various severe illnesses” and died Sunday at a hospital in the county.

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State and county officials also said that the case remained under investigation to determine how monkeypox may have factored into the person’s death.

“Monkeypox is a serious disease, particularly for those with weakened immune systems,” John Hellerstedt, the commissioner of the state’s health services department, 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.”

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Monkeypox deaths have been rare, with 15 fatalities reported globally prior to the Texas case out of some 47,000 documented cases this year. Deaths have been reported from countries including Spain and Brazil, where the virus has not historically spread, as well as countries in West and Central Africa where the virus is endemic.

Cases in the outbreak have largely been centered among men who have sex with men, particularly those who have multiple sex partners.

As the data show, the vast majority of people infected during the outbreak have recovered from the virus, but the pathogen does pose a particular threat to people who are immunocompromised. Fatal cases have included a man with lymphoma in Brazil and a man in Mexico with HIV, though health officials are still investigating what role monkeypox played in the latter instance. However, the two fatal cases in Spain were in younger men — 31 and 44 — who were not immunocompromised and had no underlying chronic diseases. Both developed encephalitis, which is brain inflammation.

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