Virginia public health officials have reported that an individual in the state has died from complications related to mpox, the disease that was formerly known as monkeypox before the World Health Organization renamed it in a desperate effort to get more people vaccinated by reducing stigma around the disease.
The Virginia resident’s death brings the U.S. death toll from mpox to 16, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Virginia health officials declined to disclose the person’s age, gender identity, or vaccination status, only saying that the person was a resident of the “Eastern region,” which includes Virginia Beach, the Hampton Roads region, and the rural Eastern Shore, according to The Washington Post.
“Our thoughts are with the decedent’s family at this difficult time,” State Health Commissioner Colin Greene told the Post in a statement. “Mpox is a serious disease, especially for those with weakened immune systems. If you have been exposed to mpox or have symptoms consistent with the disease, we urge you to seek medical consultation now.”
The CDC reports that there have been 29,630 confirmed cases of monkeypox in the United States since the outbreak began in May. Among those, 524 cases occurred in the District of Columbia, 558 in Virginia, and 732 in Maryland. Prior to Thursday, the only death in the region had occurred in October. The decedent was a Maryland resident who was immunocompromised and tested positive for mpox.
Infections of monkeypox have dropped dramatically since the summer, although local jurisdictions continue to report new cases weekly. Health officials credit the curbing of the disease’s spread to an aggressive campaign to identify and vaccinate at-risk individuals, including those who are immunocompromised or at higher risk of becoming infected due to their sexual behaviors.
More than 9 in 10 confirmed cases of mpox infection have been in cisgender males, according to CDC data. The preponderance of cases have also been among men who report having sex with other men. While initially 6 in 10 people infected with the virus were white, that percentage has since fallen to less than one-third of all cases as more people have gotten vaccinated.
The District of Columbia has the highest case rate per capita compared with any state. The District has administered more than 38,000 vaccine doses to area residents, as the criteria for vaccination has since been expanded to include any person, regardless of sexual orientation or gender, who has had anonymous or multiple sexual partners in the past two weeks.
Among the groups who are considered the highest risk for acquiring mpox are men who have sex with men, transgender men and women, sex workers, and staff at bathhouses, saunas, or sex clubs. Typical symptoms of infection include fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, and a rash of lesions on the skin. Most cases do not require hospitalization, but can be extremely uncomfortable while symptoms persist.
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