Goodbye monkeypox, hello simian pox
The Texas Department of Public Health confirmed Tuesday that a person had died of smallpox but said it was still determining the role of the disease in the death of the “severely immunocompromised” patient.
The death is believed to be the first caused by simian smallpox in the United States since the recent outbreak began.
“This case is being investigated to determine what role simian smallpox played,” Texas health officials said in a statement.
They said the case was an adult with a severely compromised immune system.
“I believe further investigation is needed to determine what role simian smallpox may or may not have played in his death,” Jennifer McQuiston, an official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), added at a news conference Tuesday.
“It is important to emphasize that dying from simian smallpox is still very rare, even though it is a possibility,” she added, noting that only “a handful” of deaths had so far been recorded out of “more than 40,000 cases” detected worldwide.
America has recorded 18,100 cases of simian smallpox since May. According to health authority data, the number of new infections appears to have slowed slightly recently.
The virus primarily affects the gay community, and most transmissions occur during sex.
According to a CDC study last week, since hearing about the epidemic, about half of men who have sex with men have cut back on the number of partners they have, on one-night stands, or on their use of dating apps to seek sex.
The United States has focused its response on the distribution of vaccines to stop the epidemic. The US government has announced that doses will be specifically made available at major LGBTQ+ events.
These include Black Pride in Atlanta, two events in Oakland, California, and the Southern Decadence festival in New Orleans this weekend, which can attract up to 300,000 people and has not been held for two years due to the pandemic.
The government has also launched an initiative to target smaller events, particularly to reach out to minorities. For example, the “voguing and house (music) communities” attract “a lot of young, racialized people,” said Dr Demetre Daskalakis, deputy coordinator of the White House response to the epidemic.