29.11.2022

Texas records first US death from monkeypox

America has recorded its first death in a person diagnosed with monkeypox in Texas who was also severely immunocompromised, health officials confirmed Tuesday. 

The unnamed adult was being treated in Harris County, which includes most of the state’s largest city of Houston, died on Sunday. Health officials said the individual had ‘various severe illnesses‘ besides the virus.

A cause of death is yet to be determined, but if it is confirmed to be monkeypox it will make the fatality America’s first death from the virus during the current outbreak. Globally, at least 15 monkeypox deaths have now been reported including two in Spain and one in Brazil.

America currently has the largest outbreak of the virus in the world, with more than 18,101 cases diagnosed to date including more than nine in ten among gay or bisexual men. The virus — native to West Africa — has spread to more than 40 countries so far, with nearly 50,000 cases confirmed.

America has confirmed its first fatality in an individual diagnosed with monkeypox in Texas. If the cause of death is confirmed to be the disease, it would be the country’s first. (Pictured: A file photo of a monkeypox symptom. This is not the Texas patient)

Shown above are the daily monkeypox cases recorded in America. Last week there were signs the outbreak was slowing down in some areas including New York and parts of California

The above map shows the number of monkeypox cases spotted in each U.S. state. California has the biggest outbreak at present (3,291 cases), followed by New York (3,197) and Florida (1,870). Texas has the fourth largest (1,604)

A total of 15 monkeypox deaths have been confirmed globally to date, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) says. If the U.S. fatality is confirmed to be due to monkeypox, it will be the 16th in the world

In a release, the Texas Department of Health and Human Services said an autopsy is underway to confirm the cause of death. Results are expected in the next few weeks.

Further details are not being released at this time — including the person’s age and gender.

Health officials in the state revealed Monday that a patient had died with a suspected monkeypox infection. On Tuesday they confirmed the infection in the deceased person.

Timeline of monkeypox in the United States

1958: Monkeypox is discovered when an outbreak of pox-like disease occurred in monkeys kept for research.

1970: First human case of the disease is recorded in the Democratic Republic of Congo. It was later detected in a number of other central and western African countries.

2003: U.S. detects monkeypox on its soil for the first time. A total of 47 people are infected after having contact with pet prairie dogs that picked up the disease at a farm.

July, 2021: Monkeypox case detected in the U.S. in a citizen who had recently returned from Nigeria.

November, 2021: Monkeypox is detected in another U.S. resident who recently returned from Nigeria.

May, 2022: Current U.S. monkeypox outbreak — and largest to date — begins. The first case is diagnosed in a man in Massachusetts who had recently returned from Canada. There are now more than 18,000 cases confirmed in the country.

July, 2022: First cases are confirmed in children and a pregnant woman, who are thought to be more at risk from the virus.

August 4, 2022: America declares a public health emergency over the virus.

August 30, 2022: Patient who died is diagnosed with monkeypox in what could be America’s first ever death from the virus. Autopsy launched to determine cause of death.

Local health commissioner Dr John Hellerstedt said: ‘Monkeypox is a serious disease, particularly for those with weakened immune systems.

‘We continue to urge people to seek treatment if they have been exposed to monkeypox or have symptoms consistent with the disease.’

Texas has the fourth largest monkeypox outbreak in the United States, with a total of 1,604 cases confirmed so far. California (3,291 cases), New York (3,197) and Florida (1,870) have all detected more cases.

The state is currently offering the monkeypox vaccine — named Jynneos — to all those with a known or possible exposure to the virus. Some areas are also rolling out the jab to all men who have sex with men.

But a lack of supply early in the outbreak saw many who came forward for the jabs left waiting to get one for weeks.

It is now giving doses intradermally — between layers of the skin — at one-fifth of the original size to help stretch supplies after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said this was just as effective for patients.

Yesterday revealing the fatality, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said: ‘We are sharing this information 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. Our goal is still to get as  many people who qualify vaccinated as quickly as possible — I have always felt that vaccines are key to reducing spread.’

The county’s public health director Barbie Robinson added: ‘We continue our work to control the monkeypox outbreak in our community and to build a healthier and stronger Harris County.’

The CDC says a total of 15 monkeypox deaths have been confirmed to date in the current outbreak.

Most are in Nigeria (four), Ghana (three) as well as Spain (two) and the Central African Republic (two). But one fatality has also been confirmed in India, Cuba, Brazil and Ecuador.

OurWorldinData — run by Oxford University scientists in the UK — says that Peru and Mexico have both also reported monkeypox deaths, although these are not included on the CDC’s dashboard.

Monkeypox is a tropical disease where patients initially experience flu-like symptoms before developing a rash that gradually spreads across the whole body.

It is spread by physical contact with infectious skin lesions, scabs dropped onto clothing and bedding by patients. In rare cases it can also be transmitted through the air.

Most patients recover within about four weeks, although there are concerns more vulnerable groups could suffer a more severe disease.

The above graph shows the top five countries that have recorded the most cases of monkeypox globally. The U.S. has the largest outbreak, followed by Spain and Brazil

This graph shows confirmed cases per million people in each country. Experts say it is a more accurate way of comparing outbreaks because it takes into account differing population sizes. It suggests Spain — which has recorded two deaths — has the largest outbreak per head followed by the United States and France

In the current outbreak the virus is mostly being spread among gay or bisexual men through physical contact during sex.

Many patients are reporting lesions on the genital area as the first warning sign, before also suffering flu-like symptoms.

But because the virus is spread by physical touch, there are concerns that it will spill over into other more vulnerable groups.

At least 15 cases have been spotted in children so far — including in Georgia among youngsters who had returned to school. An infection has also been diagnosed in a pregnant woman.

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