Texas officials report first monkeypox death

Adult in Harris County was ‘severely immunocompromised,’ DSHS says

Monkeypox case confirmed in student at Fort Bend ISD high school, district says

HOUSTON – A person diagnosed with monkeypox has died in the Houston area, becoming the first fatal case in Texas and the U.S. since the outbreak.

The Texas Department of State Health Services said the victim was an adult patient in Harris County who was “severely immunocompromised.”

Authorities are investigating whether the disease played a role in their death, the department said Tuesday.

“Monkeypox is a serious disease, particularly for those with weakened immune systems,” Dr. John Hellerstedt, the DSHS commissioner, said in a release. “We continue to urge people to seek treatment if they have been exposed to monkeypox or have symptoms consistent with the disease.”

The Houston and Dallas areas have the highest number of cases in the state, with 563 and 516 cases respectively. Bexar County has 27 cases as of Monday.

Health officials have said that the infection can be painful but is typically not life-threatening.

No other deaths related to monkeypox have been reported in the U.S., according to the Associated Press. However, deaths have been reported in other countries.

Most U.S. monkeypox cases have been among men who have sex with men, but officials have stressed that anyone can catch the virus.

Monkeypox is endemic in parts of Africa, where people have been infected through bites from rodents or small animals. It wasn’t considered a disease that spreads easily among people until May, when infections emerged in Europe and the U.S.

There have been more than 45,000 cases reported in countries that have not historically seen monkeypox.

The U.S. has the most infections of any country — more than 16,000. About 98% of U.S. cases are men and about 93% were men who reported recent sexual contact with other men.

Officials say the virus has been spreading mainly through skin-on-skin contact, but they warn it might also transmit in other ways, including through touching linens used by someone with monkeypox.

The DSHS said people who experience fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes and a new rash should contact a doctor. People who are diagnosed with monkeypox should stay home until they have recovered.

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Rebecca Salinas joined KSAT in the fall of 2019. Her skills include content management, engagement and reporting.