Maryland health officials confirm first human monkeypox-related death

Published on: October 21, 2022 4:47 PM EDT|Updated on: October 21, 2022 6:37 PM EDT

A healthcare worker prepares to administer a vaccine to Michael Nicot for the prevention of monkeypox the Pride Center on July 12, 2022 in Wilton Manors, Florida. The center is offering the free smallpox/monkeypox vaccinations from the Florida Department of Health in Broward County as South Florida leads the state in the number of people infected.

The Maryland Department of Health confirmed the first human monkeypox-related death of a Maryland resident Friday afternoon.

Health department officials said in a statement that “the individual was immunocompromised, resulting in a more severe case” and that human monkeypox was a “contributing factor” in the death.

Though most people recover from monkeypox without any serious complications, some may be more at risk for severe illness. People living with a condition that weakens the immune system, such as advanced or untreated HIV, AIDS, certain cancers, an organ transplant, or another immune deficiency disorder, may be more likely to have serious complications or need treatment, the health department said in its statement.

Monkeypox may cause a rash that could first look like pimples or blisters, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Other symptoms include fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes, or respiratory symptoms like a sore throat or nasal congestion, although symptoms may look different in every case.

The illness usually lasts two to four weeks and is contagious, according to the Maryland Department of Health. It can spread through direct contact with the rash or body fluids, as well as other intimate contact, the department said. People can also get monkeypox through touching items that have come into contact with the infection.

Deputy Secretary for Public Health Services Dr. Jinlene Chan said in the health department’s release that the best protection from monkeypox is vaccination.

The Maryland health department has been vaccinating people in close contact with monkeypox cases since late June, and Baltimore’s health department began vaccinating high-risk individuals in July, Baltimore City Health Commissioner Letitia Dzirasa said Tuesday.

As of Oct. 12, 1,230 city residents had been at least partially vaccinated for monkeypox, Dzirasa said. Baltimore City has the highest cumulative case count in Maryland.

A total of 700 Maryland residents have contracted monkeypox, according to the Maryland health department’s website. The state’s first presumed case of human monkeypox was confirmed in mid-June.

Residents can pre-register for a vaccine first dose appointment here.