A Los Angeles County resident has died of monkeypox, health officials announced on Monday afternoon, Sept. 12, marking not only the region’s first confirmed death because of the virus — but also what appears to be the first confirmed death in the nation.
The resident was severely immunocompromised and had been hospitalized, the LA County Department of Public Health said in a press release. Citing confidentiality concerns, DPH said other information about the resident and their case would be kept private.
Monday’s announcement comes after DPH said last week that an LA County resident with monkeypox had died. Health officials said at the time that the case was under investigation to determine whether the virus was a contributing factor.
Health officials said on Monday that DPH and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention had confirmed LA County’s first death because of monkeypox.
“Public Health sends heartfelt condolences and wishes of healing to the family and friends mourning the loss of their loved one,” DHP said in its press release.
Texas health officials announced a suspected monkeypox-related death late last month. That individual was also immunocompromised, Texas Department of State Health Services officials said.
But the CDC has not yet confirmed that the Texas death was caused by monkeypox.
Monkeypox, according to health officials, causes milder illness than its smallpox relative — and is rarely fatal. It spreads through prolonged skin-to-skin or face-to-face contact. That includes kissing, hugging, cuddling and other forms of intimate contact. The virus can also spread via infected materials — including cups, bedding, clothing, towels and utensils.
Symptoms can include fever, headache, muscle aches, swollen lymph nodes, chills and exhaustion. A rash that can look like pimples or blisters sometimes appears on the face, inside the mouth and on other parts of the body.
Symptoms vary from case to case and health officials urge any residents experiencing symptoms — especially those who are immunocompromised — to seek out medical care.
There had been 21,985 confirmed monkeypox cases nationwide as of Monday, according to the CDC’s dashboard. Globally, the CDC has confirmed 57,995 cases and 18 deaths.
LA County had 1,722 confirmed and suspected monkeypox cases across LA County as of Friday, Sept. 9, according to DPH data.
In Long Beach and Pasadena — both of which have independent health departments — there were 95 and 22 confirmed and suspected cases of the virus, respectively.
Officials across the region have bolstered their efforts to make the monkeypox vaccine widely available, with the LA County, Long Beach and Pasadena public health agencies recently announcing expansions to vaccine eligibility.
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Now, people living with HIV — especially those with advanced or uncontrolled disease — and gay and bisexual men, and transgender people who have sex with men or transgender people are also eligible for the monkeypox shot. And those who have had close contact with someone suspected to be infected with the virus, even if the health department hasn’t confirmed the infection, are also now eligible for the vaccine.
Those new criteria apply to residents in both LA County and Long Beach.
More than 52,00 doses of the monkeypox vaccine had been administered countywide as of Friday, including in both Long Beach and Pasadena, according to LA County’s dashboard.
More information about monkeypox is available on DPH’s website.