Health officials confirmed the first US death due to monkeypox in a Los Angeles County resident.
The Los Angeles Department of Public Health and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) said that the patient was severely immunocompromised and had been hospitalized. The additional information will not be made public to protect the patient's confidentiality and privacy.
"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," officials said in a press release.
Another person with monkeypox, who was also severely immunocompromised, died in Texas earlier in September. Officials are still working to determine what role the infection played in the patient's death.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the monkeypox mortality rate has historically ranged from 0 to 11 % in the general population and has been higher among young children. In recent times, the case fatality ratio has been around 3–6%.
However, data from 2022 suggests a death rate in the current global outbreak of about 0.03%, according to the Canadian Medical Association Journal.
The authors say two factors can explain the lower rate. First, before 2022, the outbreak was mostly in Central and West Africa, where access to care can be very limited, so people might not seek care unless they are very ill.
Secondly, the current outbreak primarily affects young and healthy men from wealthy nations outside Africa. These men are less likely to suffer complications than pregnant women, children, or immunocompromised people from poorer endemic regions.
As of September 12, there were 21,985 confirmed monkeypox cases in the US. The outbreak is showing signs of slowing, but officials warn it is too early to relax.
"A downward trend can be the most dangerous time if it opens the door to complacency. The WHO continues to recommend that all countries persist with a tailored combination of public health measures, testing, research, and targeted vaccination, where vaccines are available," said WHO Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus last week.