HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — State health leaders confirmed Tuesday the first death in Texas of a person who was diagnosed with monkeypox — an adult from Harris County. It could be the first in the United States.

The Texas Department of State Health Services said the person who died was “severely immunocompromised.” The death is being investigated to learn what role monkeypox played.

State health leaders explained for most people, monkeypox is painful but not life threatening.

“Monkeypox is a serious disease, particularly for those with weakened immune systems,” said Dr. John Hellerstedt, DSHS commissioner, 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.”

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the 2022 monkeypox outbreak shows 15 total deaths worldwide. Those deaths occurred outside the U.S., including in Nigeria, Ghana and Spain, among other locations. The data was last updated Monday evening.

CDC data from Monday shows Texas has recorded 1,604 cases so far. That’s currently the fourth-highest count in the country. California, New York and Florida are the state that have recorded more cases so far.

East Texas currently has two confirmed cases of monkeypox. The first was confirmed in Tyler by UT Health of East Texas in July. The patient was sent home in good health according to a statement released by UT Health. The second confirmed case was confirmed in Mount Pleasant by Titus Regional Medical Center in August. In a statement released by TRMC, the patient received outpatient treatment.

How to avoid spreading, getting monkeypox

DSHS said you should reach out to your doctor if you have a fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes and a new, unexplained rash. People diagnosed with the virus should stay home and avoid close contact with others until the rash goes away completely (when the scabs fall off and a new layer of skin forms).

The department said monkeypox spreads through close contact with an infected person, but it can be prevented using these guidelines:

  • Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with someone with a new, unexplained rash.
  • Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact in large crowds where people are wearing minimal clothing, such as nightclubs, festivals, raves, saunas and bathhouses.
  • Do not share cups, utensils, bedding or towels with someone who is sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.

People who have been exposed to the disease are eligible to get vaccinated against it. Others who are also at high risk of being infected can also seek out the JYNNEOS vaccine, DSHS said.

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