First mpox death announced in Virginia

Published: Dec. 1, 2022 at 11:35 AM EST
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RICHMOND, Va. (WDBJ) - The Virginia Department of Health is reporting the first death of a person diagnosed with monkeypox, now known as “mpox,” in Virginia. The patient was an adult resident of the Eastern Health Region of Virginia.

VDH will not release any specifics about the person, because of privacy concerns.

“Our thoughts are with the decedent’s family at this difficult time,” said State Health Commissioner Colin M. Greene, MD, MPH. “Mpox is a serious disease, especially for those with weakened immune systems. If you have been exposed to mpox or have symptoms consistent with the disease, we urge you to seek medical consultation now.”

VDH says people should contact their healthcare providers if they have fever, chills, swollen lymph nodes and a new, unexplained rash. People who are diagnosed with mpox should stay home and avoid close contact with others until the rash has fully resolved, the scabs have fallen off and a fresh layer of intact skin has formed.

For most people, infection with mpox is painful, but not life-threatening, according to VDH, which says mpox is a preventable disease that spreads from person to person through close contact.

24 people across the commonwealth have been hospitalized with the virus. There are currently six cases in the Roanoke Valley.

Even with the health department’s reported death from mpox, health experts say the severity of the disease hasn’t increased in the Southwest Region. The number of cases across the commonwealth has been decreasing since September.

The Roanoke City and Alleghany Health District’s communications officer explained VDH is still offering vaccines.

”If you are a person, no matter where you live, that falls under the categories of high risk for monkeypox, we absolutely recommend getting the vaccine,” Christie Wills said. “It’s a good protective step to take.”

Here are things VDH recommends people do to help prevent the spread of mpox:

  • Avoid close, skin-to-skin contact with someone with a new, unexplained rash.
  • Do not share cups, utensils, bedding or towels with someone who is sick.
  • Stay home when you are sick.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water or use an alcohol-based hand sanitizer after contact with infected people or animals.
  • Wear a mask in situations where you may have lengthy or close face-to-face contact with people who may be infected.
  • For those eligible, consider discussing the JYNNEOS vaccine with your healthcare provider.

People who may have been exposed to mpox should receive the vaccine as soon as possible to reduce the chance of developing it after exposure, according to VDH. The vaccine is most effective if administered within four days of exposure, but it may be administered up to 14 days after exposure. Contact your local health department to see if you are eligible for vaccination and to find out where it is available.

VDH has information available to the public at its mpox website. The site also includes information about cases and vaccines administered in Virginia. The VDH call center is another source of information regarding mpox and vaccination and treatment options; call (877) 829-4682 Monday through Friday between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. with assistance in English, Spanish and more than 100 other languages. TTY users may dial 7-1-1.