Health officials in Texas announced Monday they are investigating what role monkeypox played in the death of a patient who was diagnosed with the virus. State officials said in a statement that the adult patient was “severely immunocompromised.”
The patient’s death is the first publicly reported by health authorities in the U.S. during the current monkeypox outbreak. However, health officials cautioned that it was too early to say for sure exactly what role monkeypox actually played in the death.
“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 Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had tallied 15 deaths around the world in monkeypox patients.
Local officials said the patient died Sunday 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 deaths remain rare.
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