State health officials reported the death of Harris County resident with monkeypox Tuesday. If the virus is confirmed as the cause, the death could be the first known fatal case of the disease in the U.S.
According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, the patient, who wasn’t identified, was a severely immunocompromised adult.
The case is under investigation to determine what role monkeypox played in the death. In a news release, Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said the autopsy report is expected to 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 the case,” Hidalgo said.
More than 18,100 cases of monkeypox have been reported in the U.S., including 1,604 in Texas, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. CDC data indicates men who have sex with other men make up a majority of cases, but anyone is susceptible to contracting the disease.
Monkeypox spreads through contact with another person’s bodily fluids, monkeypox sores or shared items that have been contaminated with fluids or monkeypox sores, according to the health department. People can also contract the virus through respiratory droplets in close settings.
Symptoms include fever, headaches, muscle aches, fatigue and swollen lymph nodes during the first week or two after infection. A rash that causes lesions typically occurs after people experience a fever.
Most people with healthy immune systems infected with monkeypox will experience mild symptoms that go away on their own. People who are at high risk of severe disease — including immunocompromised patients, children under 8 or people who are pregnant or breastfeeding — may want to contact the CDC about treatment options.
“Monkeypox is a serious disease, particularly for those with weakened immune systems,” Texas Health Commissioner John Hellerstedt wrote in a news release. “We continue to urge people to seek treatment if they have been exposed to monkeypox or have symptoms consistent with the disease.”
While monkeypox vaccinations are available, they currently are recommended only for people who have been directly exposed to the virus and those at a moderate to high risk of contracting it.