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Health officials investigate first U.S. death of person with monkeypox

Health officials in Texas on Tuesday reported the death of a person infected with monkeypox. Photo by Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regnery/<a href="https://www.cdc.gov/poxvirus/monkeypox/response/2022/index.html" target="_blank">CDC</a>/<a href="https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Monkeypox_Virion_(colorized)_-_CDC.png" target="_blank">Wikimedia Commons</a>
Health officials in Texas on Tuesday reported the death of a person infected with monkeypox. Photo by Cynthia S. Goldsmith, Russell Regnery/CDC/Wikimedia Commons

Aug. 30 (UPI) -- Health officials in Texas on Tuesday said they are investigating the death of a person who was diagnosed with monkeypox.

The Texas Department of State Health Services announced the death in a press release on Tuesday, stating the adult was a resident of Harris County and was "severely immunocompromised."

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Officials said the case was under investigation to determine the role monkeypox played in the death. If confirmed, it would be the first U.S. death to the rare virus.

UPI has contacted the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for comment.

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Harris County health officials said the patient died Sunday at an area hospital and is a presumptive positive for monkeypox though the person suffered from "various severe illnesses."

"At this time, the patient's cause of death is unknown," county officials said in a statement, which explained no further identifying information about the patient would be released to respect the family's privacy.

Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said that they were sharing the information to err on the side of transparency and avoid potential misinformation about the case.

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"We won't know the cause of death until the autopsy results return," she said on Twitter.

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The death was announced as the United States and some 100 other nations combat a monkeypox outbreak. The first patient was diagnosed in Britain in early May and has grown to nearly 50,000 infections.

The United States' first case was diagnosed mid-May, and since then its outbreak has grown to more than 18,400 cases, according to statistics from the CDC.

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The national public health agency states on its website that monkeypox is similar though milder to smallpox and "is rarely fatal."

Amid the current international outbreak, 15 deaths have been confirmed in eight countries. Four of the deaths were reported in Nigeria, three in Ghana and two each in Spain and the Central African Republic, according to a tally by the CDC.

Each of India, Ecuador, Cuba and Brazil have reported one monkeypox death.

The Biden administration early this month declared the outbreak a public health emergency and has deployed a series of measures, mostly at increasing production and supply of vaccines, to stymie the virus' spread.

On Tuesday, the White House announced it aims to supply additional vaccines to areas holding events with a large number of LGBTQI+ individuals as members of this community have accounted for the majority, but not all, of the monkeypox cases.

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The United States previously battled an outbreak of the virus in 2003 that consisted of 47 confirmed and probable cases, marking the first time human monkeypox was reported outside of Africa.

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