Los Angeles reports what may be the first monkeypox death in the US

A Texan man diagnosed with the virus died in late August, but it is not yet known whether it was a determining factor

Luis Pablo Beauregard
Monkeypox death Los Angeles
A monkeypox vaccination center in New York.BRENDAN MCDERMID (REUTERS)

The Los Angeles Department of Public Health said on Monday it had confirmed the area’s first death due to monkeypox. The department said it had made the determination that the death in Los Angeles County was due to monkeypox together with the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The victim in Los Angeles may be the first recorded fatality from the virus in the United States. In late August, Texas reported the death of a man diagnosed with monkeypox, but that case is still under investigation to see what role the virus played in the death.

The Los Angeles Department of Public Health first reported the case on Thursday. Following an autopsy, the department confirmed Monday that monkeypox was the cause of death. The age and gender of the victim have not been made public. “The resident was severely immunocompromised and had been hospitalized,” the department said in a statement.

“Persons severely immunocompromised who suspect they have monkeypox are encouraged to seek medical care and treatment early and remain under the care of a provider during their illness,” it added.

Eight monkeypox deaths have been recorded worldwide. The viral disease has a low transmission rate and fatality rate of between 3% and 6%. Most monkeypox cases are mild, but four out of 10 patients need treatment, according to specialists. The virus causes a blistering rash that may start on the face or in the genital area and spread to other parts of the body. The biggest challenge in tackling the virus has been the shortage of monkeypox vaccines.

The US declared monkeypox a public health emergency in August after recording more than 7,000 cases. Days before, the governor of California, Gavin Newsom, issued a state emergency due to the spike in cases in the state. This declaration allowed local healthcare systems to boost monkeypox vaccination in community clinics. The US has reported 21,900 monkeypox cases, the highest number in the world.

Since July, California has recorded 4,300 monkeypox cases. The outbreak began in the city of San Francisco, which has reported 700 infections. In the first weeks of August, one in three cases detected in California were recorded in San Francisco. The Los Angeles metropolitan area, the most populous in the state, has now recorded more monkeypox cases. As of Tuesday, the number stood at 1,692.

The West Coast is often the gateway for diseases to enter the United States, due to its proximity to countries in the Pacific. At the end of February, Washington announced the death of a patient due to Covid-19. This was thought to have been the first death in the United States from a coronavirus infection. Months later, US health authorities corrected the information: the first Covid-19 fatality was recorded in the Californian county of Santa Clara in early February, three weeks before the death in Washington.

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