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30 Aug, 2022 18:18

US records first death linked to monkeypox

Texas’ biggest county is investigating the death of a “presumptive positive” case
US records first death linked to monkeypox

The US may have recorded its first monkeypox-related death, pending the autopsy results of a Harris County resident, multiple media outlets reported on Tuesday. County officials reported on Monday evening that an adult with “various severe illnesses” who was also “presumptive positive” for monkeypox had passed away on Sunday.

“At this time, the patient's cause of death is unknown,” Harris County Public Health said in a statement, adding that officials were “collaborating with partners to determine what role, if any, monkeypox may have played in this person’s death. An autopsy is in process, and the final report will 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,” said County Judge Lina Hidalgo, a Democrat. She also urged all those who qualify to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

"The best way for us to fight this virus is through vaccines,” said Hidalgo. “I have always felt that vaccines are the key to reducing spread.”

Harris County, which is home to the city of Houston, is the largest county in Texas and the third most-populous in the US, with over 4.7 million residents. 

The chickenpox-like virus causes long-lasting and painful blisters and pustules, but is not generally fatal. In late July, Spain and Brazil recorded the first monkeypox-related deaths outside of Africa, where the virus is endemic. Monkeypox is primarily spread via bodily fluids and skin-to-skin contact, as well as touching clothing or bedding used by an infected person. 

Some 50,000 cases of monkeypox have been reported worldwide as of August 30.  According to a report by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) earlier this month, 99% of American patients “were men, with 94% of those having recently had sex with men.” Since then, however, cases have been reported among several women and children as well.

The CDC has even put together a safe sex guide to curb the spread of monkeypox, urging people to avoid “anonymous sexual contact” and “private and public sex parties.”