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Texas health officials announce first possible U.S. monkeypox death

Adult patient had various severe illnesses

Monkeypox virus
Monkeypox virus | Arif biswas

August 30, 2022 11:26am

Updated: August 30, 2022 10:29pm

HOUSTON – Harris County Public Health (HCPH) announced late Monday that an adult suffering from monkeypox died on Sunday, although it is still unknown if the virus itself played a part in the patient’s death.

If it is determined the patient died of monkeypox, it will be the first monkeypox death in the United States. Officials said that the adult had various severe illnesses before testing positive for monkeypox. An autopsy with the final report will be available in the next few weeks.

“Monkeypox is a serious disease, particularly for those with weakened immune systems,” Dr. John Hellerstedt, Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner, said in a press release Tuesday.  

In collaboration with Harris Health System, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS), HCPH is hoping to spread the word about the monkeypox outbreak, so people know the signs and symptoms of the zoonotic disease, which is an infectious disease that has spread from animal to human.

“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. “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 – I have always felt that vaccines are the key to reducing spread.”

DSHS said, for most people, the disease is not painful, but not life-threatening. According to the World Health Organization, symptoms usually last between two to four weeks, with a fatality ratio of 3-6%.

According to the CDC, people with monkeypox develop a rash that may be located on or near the genitals (penis, testicles, labia, and vagina) or anus (butthole) and could be on other areas like the hands, feet, chest, face, or mouth.

  • The rash will go through several stages, including scabs, before healing.
  • The rash can initially look like pimples or blisters and may be painful or itchy.

Other symptoms of monkeypox can include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Exhaustion
  • Muscle aches and backache
  • Headache
  • Respiratory symptoms (e.g. sore throat, nasal congestion, or cough)

You may experience all or only a few symptoms

  • Sometimes, people have flu-like symptoms before the rash.
  • Some people get a rash first, followed by other symptoms.
  • Others only experience a rash.

HCPH encourages anyone with symptoms to contact their healthcare provider. Monkeypox is a preventable disease that spreads through close contact with an infected person. 

“We continue to urge people to seek treatment if they have been exposed to monkeypox or have symptoms consistent with the disease,” Hellerstedt said.

Barbie Robinson, HCPH Director, encouraged people to contact their healthcare provider about receiving a monkeypox vaccine.

“We continue our work to control the monkeypox outbreak in our community,” she added.

More information or questions about monkeypox can be directed to (832) 927-0707 or by visiting the HCPH monkeypox guidance website at http://www.hcphtx.org/monkeypox.