- The first death of a person with monkeypox in the U.S. has been reported.
- The individual had multiple severe illnesses and an autopsy will be conducted to identify the cause of death.
- The vast majority of people with monkeypox recover in about two to four weeks.
A resident in Texas who had been diagnosed with monkeypox has died, Texas state health officials announced on Tuesday.
The death is the first monkeypox-related death reported in the 2022 monkeypox outbreak in the United States, however, it is unclear if monkeypox was the cause of death.
The individual had multiple severe illnesses and an autopsy will be conducted to identify the cause of death.
In the vast majority of people, monkeypox is a self-limited disease that lasts anywhere from two to four weeks.
Children under eight years of age, people who are immune-compromised, and individuals who are pregnant or breastfeeding are at greater risk of infection and serious illness.
“The CDC and medical community knows, however, that in certain situations and settings, monkeypox can be a more serious infection, and even lead to death,” Dr. Michelle Forcier, a FOLX health clinician who specializes in sexual healthcare, told Healthline.
How lethal is monkeypox?
The World Health Organization says that monkeypox has had a fatality rate between 3 to 6 percent in recent years.
According to research published in Nature Medicine earlier this summer, the strain currently circulating belongs to a group of monkeypox strains categorized as clade 3, which are known to be less deadly than the monkeypox strains in clade 1. Clade 3 strains typically have a fatality rate lower than 1 percent.
Most people infected with monkeypox develop painful and uncomfortable lesions, however, it can take a more serious turn in people with underlying health issues, says Forcier.
“Deaths amongst persons infected with monkeypox are related to medical vulnerability due to other health issues or due to issues related to lack of access and adequate healthcare,” Forcier said.
According to Forcier, more severe complications of monkeypox include skin infections, pneumonia, encephalitis or infection and inflammation in the brain tissues, and eye and vision problems.
Fifteen deaths and nearly 50,000 cases have been reported worldwide in the current outbreak. Scientists suspect cases are being undercounted as many patients have mild symptoms and do not seek treatment.
“There are little details about this first case in the United States. It is possible that we will learn of more deaths associated with monkeypox in the future, although don’t expect it to be a large number,” Dr. Jorge Salinas, an infectious diseases specialist and hospital epidemiologist at Stanford University, said.
Here’s how monkeypox is prevented and treated
Salinas says it’s important for people who are at risk of getting monkeypox to get vaccinated.
“Immunosuppressed people who are not part of the at-risk populations are at low risk of acquiring monkeypox,” Salinas said.
Most people with monkeypox will be able to recover at home without any treatment.
Over-the-counter medications like ibuprofen and acetaminophen can provide symptom relief. Antihistamines can help alleviate itching and irritation.
An antiviral called tecovirimat is available for people at risk for developing serious compilations from monkeypox.
If you were recently exposed to the virus or are developing symptoms, reach out to a medical provider. You can also reach out to your local health department, which can provide resources on treatment, vaccination, and contact tracing efforts, says Forcier.
“While monkeypox will usually run its course without severe or long-term complications, it is best to avoid getting it, and to help avoid its spread,” Forcier said.
The bottom line:
A resident in Texas who had been diagnosed with monkeypox has died. The death is the first monkeypox-related death reported in the 2022 monkeypox outbreak in the United States, however, it is unclear if monkeypox was the cause of death. In most people, monkeypox is a self-limited disease, however, young children, pregnant people, and individuals who are immune-compromised are at greater risk of developing complications and severe disease.
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