A Los Angeles County resident’s death has been attributed to monkeypox, the county Department of Public Health said Monday, the first known death from the virus in the US.
The department and the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed the link and said the person had a severely weakened immune system and had been hospitalized. No further information will be made public, the department said in a news release.
“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,” the news release says.
Dr. William Schaffner, a professor in the Division of Infectious Diseases at Vanderbilt University Medical Center, told CNN in an email that the person’s “impaired immune system could not control the virus once it entered his body, the virus multiplied in an uncontained fashion and it likely spread to several organ systems, causing their malfunction.”
Deaths from monkeypox are extremely rare and often affect babies, pregnant women and people with weakened immune systems, such as from HIV. A person in Harris County, Texas, who had monkeypox died last month, but the virus’ role in that death has not been confirmed.
There have been almost 22,000 cases of probable or confirmed monkeypox reported in the US this year, as of Monday, CDC data shows. California has the most cases: 4,300.
Globally in this outbreak, there have been almost 58,000 cases and 18 confirmed deaths, according to CDC data, which does not yet include the US death.
Trends in monkeypox cases appear to be leveling off, health officials say, but that shouldn’t lead to complacency.
“We’re continuing to see a downward trend in Europe,” World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said last week. “While reported cases from the Americas also declined last week, it’s harder to draw firm conclusions about the epidemic in that region. Some countries in the Americas continue to report increasing number of cases and in some there is likely to be underreporting due to stigma and discrimination or a lack of information for those who need it most.
“A downward trend can be the most dangerous time if it opens the door to complacency,” he warned.