How concerned should we be about the first confirmed monkeypox death in the U.S.?

The first U.S. death due to monkeypox was reported by officials in Los Angeles on Sept. 12. Yahoo News explains what complications can arise from the disease and who may be at risk.

Video transcript


JESSICA JUSTMAN: This first monkeypox death that's been reported in the US occurred in somebody who was severely immunocompromised. This happened in Los Angeles. I'm not surprised by either of those. California has reported more cases of monkeypox than any other state. So from that perspective, it makes sense that the first death would happen in the state that has the highest number of confirmed cases.

And I'm also not that surprised that the first death would occur in somebody who's severely immunocompromised. It doesn't really change my view of the monkeypox epidemic. I don't think it really changes our understanding of the status of the epidemic in the US. I see it as something that was ultimately inevitable, given the large number of cases that have occurred in the US, that it was going to be the cause of death or associated with the death of somebody with other medical problems.

I think people who are severely immunocompromised just generally always need to be careful about getting exposed to illnesses, whether it's COVID or monkeypox or even influenza. These are individuals who are just more likely to have a harder time clearing an infection than others. Such individuals should see about getting vaccinated for monkeypox, especially if they think that they have any kind of exposure to monkeypox.

For people with normal immune systems, I don't think that this news changes anything. And the good news is that the number of cases has plateaued and appears to be on a downward trend. So that would suggest there's a little bit less virus circulating that people will get exposed to.

I don't think we need to panic. I remember at the beginning of COVID, people were worried about opening their mail. They were washing their groceries. We didn't need to do that then, and we certainly don't need to do that now for monkeypox.