Health officials say a person diagnosed with monkeypox in Texas has died in what may be the first known U.S. fatality from the virus.
The patient was an adult who was severely immunocompromised. Officials are investigating how monkeypox, which can present with a wide range of symptoms, may have played a part in the patient’s death. Monkeypox is generally not life-threatening, but it can be more dangerous for people with compromised immune systems.
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Scott Pauley, a spokesman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said it’s too soon to say what exactly caused the patient’s death.
“CDC continues to closely monitor the monkeypox outbreak and we are actively working with Texas officials to investigate this situation,” he said, according to Reuters. “Until the investigation is complete, it is premature to assign a specific cause of death.”
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During a press briefing Tuesday, Bob Fenton, the White House monkeypox response coordinator, said his team is focused on making sure people are vaccinated against the virus.
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“We have dramatically accelerated distribution of vaccine supply over the past several weeks through a strategy that continues to advance equity and ensures vaccines are getting to where ... they are needed,” he said.
“And to be very clear, as a result of our efforts, we have enough supply going out into the field to be in a strong position to get two doses of vaccine to everyone in the at-risk community — namely gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men — through intradermal administration.”
The Biden administration has been criticized in the past for its handling of the monkeypox outbreak, which is a growing concern. Earlier this month, the White House declared monkeypox a public health emergency, a few weeks after the World Health Organization did the same. There are more than 18,400 cases in United States, according to the CDC, and nearly 50,000 globally.
In the current outbreak, per the CDC, there have been 15 deaths globally, six of which were in countries that haven’t historically reported monkeypox, endemic to West and Central Africa. Countries that have reported monkeypox deaths include: Brazil, Cuba, Ecuador, India, Spain and now possibly the United States.