HARRIS COUNTY, Texas (KXAN) — State health leaders confirmed Tuesday the first death in Texas of a person who was diagnosed with monkeypox, and it could be the first in the United States.

The Texas Department of State Health Services said the person — an adult from Harris County — was “severely immunocompromised.” The death is being investigated to learn what role monkeypox played.

State health leaders explained that for most people, monkeypox is painful but not life-threatening.

“Monkeypox is a serious disease, particularly for those with weakened immune systems,” Dr. John Hellerstedt, DSHS commissioner, said in a news release. “We continue to urge people to seek treatment if they have been exposed to monkeypox or have symptoms consistent with the disease.”

Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention on the 2022 monkeypox outbreak shows 15 total deaths worldwide. Those deaths occurred outside the U.S., including in Nigeria, Ghana and Spain, among other locations. The data was last updated Monday evening.

CDC data from Monday shows Texas has recorded 1,604 cases so far. That’s currently the fourth-highest count in the country, behind California, New York and Florida.

How to avoid spreading, getting monkeypox

The Texas DSHS said those experiencing fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes and a new, unexplained rash should reach out to a doctor. People diagnosed with the virus should stay home and avoid close contact with others until the rash goes away completely (when the scabs fall off and a new layer of skin forms).

The department said monkeypox spreads through close contact with an infected person, but it can be prevented using these guidelines:

  • Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with someone with a new, unexplained rash.
  • Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact in large crowds where people are wearing minimal clothing, such as nightclubs, festivals, raves, saunas and bathhouses.
  • Do not share cups, utensils, bedding or towels with someone who is sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.

People who have been exposed to the disease are eligible to get vaccinated. Others who are also at high risk of being infected can seek out the JYNNEOS vaccine, DSHS said.