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Harris County resident with various illnesses, including a presumptive positive case of monkeypox, dies, health officials confirm

The patient's cause of death is unknown and an autopsy should show if monkeypox contributed to their death.

HARRIS COUNTY, Texas — A Harris County resident with various severe illnesses, including testing presumptive positive for monkeypox, died Sunday at a local hospital, according to Harris County Public Health.

The health department said the patient's cause of death is unknown. An autopsy is being performed and results should be available in the next few weeks, officials said.

Harris County health officials said they are collaborating with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), and the Texas Department of State Health Services (DSHS) on this case to determine if monkeypox may have played a role in the patient's death.

“We are sharing this information to err on the side of transparency and to avoid potential misinformation about this case,” Harris County Judge Lina Hidalgo said. “The best way for us to fight this virus is through vaccines. Our goal is still to get as many people who qualify vaccinated as quickly as possible – I have always felt that vaccines are the key to reducing spread.”

The number of monkeypox cases continues to climb in some states, including Texas.

Harris County recently reported 533 of the 1,426 confirmed cases in Texas. The Harris County number includes 427 cases reported by Houston Health Department.

RELATED: Monkeypox: Track Houston area, local counties and Texas case numbers; get answers to common questions

The entire Houston region has reported a total of 596 cases, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

Here are the latest numbers from other area counties with monkeypox cases:

For a look at how the Lone Star State compares to other states, check this CDC map.

Who is eligible for the monkeypox vaccine?

The latest Texas Department of State Health Services criteria for others who are eligible now includes these people:

  • People with a known or possible exposure to the Monkeypox virus remain the highest priority for vaccination.  

For people 18 and older the list includes: 

  • Men who have sex with men and have had multiple or anonymous sex partners within the previous 21 days;
  • Have a sex partner who is showing symptoms of monkeypox, such as a rash or sores;
  • Have had a diagnosis of HIV, chlamydia, gonorrhea, or early syphilis, within the previous 12 months;
  • Are on HIV pre-exposure prophylaxis;
  • Have a condition that may increase their risk for severe disease if infected with monkeypox virus, such as HIV, atopic dermatitis or eczema.

RELATED: VERIFY: Fact-checking common claims about the monkeypox virus

How does monkeypox spread?

  • The disease, which can cause a serious skin rash, appears to be spreading largely via direct contact with the skin or saliva of an infected person.
  • Monkeypox can spread from person to person through direct contact with the rash, scabs, or bodily fluids like saliva.
  • It can also be transmitted with prolonged face-to-face contact via respiratory droplets.  
  • Pregnant women can transmit the virus to their fetuses through the placenta.
  • At this time, it's not known if monkeypox can spread through semen or vaginal fluids. However, the DSHS says the majority of Texas cases, so far, involve men who've had sex with other men.

Monkeypox symptoms

  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Swollen lymph nodes
  • Chills 
  • Exhaustion
  • Rash that looks like pimples or blisters; the rash often appears first on the face and/or inside the mouth and then on other parts of the body.

Anyone who develops a rash should avoid direct contact with other people and contact their health care provider as soon as possible for the next steps.

For more answers to some commonly asked questions from the Centers for Disease Control, click here.

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