HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — A person diagnosed with monkeypox died Sunday in Harris County, health officials said, marking the first death of a person infected with the virus in the U.S.
As of Tuesday, authorities said the cause of the person’s death remained unknown. Officials with Harris County Public Health said they were working with other agencies to determine what role monkeypox played. An autopsy is expected to be completed in the next few weeks.
State health officials said the person was “severely compromised.” They were also dealing with “various severe illnesses,” according to Harris County Public Health.
“Monkeypox is a serious disease, particularly for those with weakened immune systems,” Texas Department of State Health Services Commissioner John Hellerstedt said in a news release. He urged people who have been exposed to the disease or who have symptoms of it to seek medical treatment. Officials noted that monkeypox infections are painful for most people but not life-threatening.
Monkeypox is spread through close contact between people, often skin-to-skin, according to officials. It is characterized by a painful rash, which might look like pimples or blisters, and a flu-like illness.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have confirmed more than 18,000 monkeypox cases nationwide, including about 1,600 in Texas. Worldwide, officials have counted 15 deaths attributed to the disease in eight countries.
In a statement released Monday, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said officials were sharing news of the death in Harris County “to err on the side of transparency and to avoid potential misinformation about this case.”
“The best way for us to fight this virus is through vaccines,” she said. “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.”
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