Texas has reported its first death of a person diagnosed with monkeypox.
The unnamed man lived in Harris County, the state’s largest county, containing Houston and several nearby suburbs. He was also “severely immunocompromised,” the Texas Department of State Health Services said in a statement issued on Tuesday. The statement provided no other identifying information about the man.
“The case is under investigation to determine what role monkeypox played in the death,” the department wrote.
In a Tuesday White House press briefing, Dr. Jennifer McQuiston with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) expressed sympathy for the man’s passing, and said that the CDC will also conduct an inquiry into the conditions that contributed to the man’s death. She also warned against panicking about other possible monkeypox-related deaths.
“I think it’s important to emphasize that deaths due to monkeypox, while possible, remain very rare,” McQuiston said. “In most cases, people are experiencing infection that resolves over time. And there have been very few deaths even recorded globally. Out of over 40,000 cases around the world, only a handful of fatalities have been reported.”
In mid-August, the World Health Organization (WHO) reported that there had been 12 deaths of people infected with monkeypox worldwide. Health authorities have urged men who have sex with men (MSM) to get vaccinated against the illness, to reduce sexual partners, and to get tested and quarantine if they experience any symptoms.
The briefing also confirmed that the White House is continuing its strategy of making vaccines and mobile testing facilities available to communities ahead of scheduled public events that are popular with MSM, such as Atlanta Black Pride and Southern Decadence in New Orleans, Louisiana.
“[It’s] a great opportunity to get folks ready for the event in terms of getting some vaccines on the ground early, but also, a great opportunity to reach people who won’t go to a clinic or a vaccine effort, but will feel comfortable in, frankly, less stigmatizing spaces that can occur in the events,” Dr. Demetre Daskalakis, the White House National Monkeypox Response Deputy Coordinator, said.
On Monday, the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) announced $11 million in funding to domestically produce the Jynneos smallpox vaccine in Grand Rapids, Michigan. The vaccine is being used to limit monkeypox’s spread.
Previously, the global supply of the vaccine came entirely from a tiny company in Denmark called Bavarian Nordic whose distribution had been hampered by a company’s lab renovation and supply chain disruptions.
There are approximately 18,400 cases of monkeypox in the U.S. as of Wednesday, according to the CDC. The U.S. cases account for 36.85 percent of the nearly 50,000 cases reported worldwide.
President Joe Biden declared a national state of emergency for monkeypox in early August. The WHO also declared monkeypox a Public Health Emergency of International Concern in late July.
In late August, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration approved the vaccine to be administered intradermally in order to stretch out the supply of available vaccines. The intradermal method could stretch the nation’s vaccine supply fivefold and has been found to be effective when vaccinating against rabies and polio.