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Patients with weakened immune systems suffer severe effects, death from monkeypox: CDC

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(NEW YORK) — Immunocompromised patients who contract monkeypox can suffer devastating consequences, according to new federal data.

A report, published Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, looked at 57 people who were hospitalized with severe cases of the disease between Aug. 10 and Oct. 10.

Almost all the patients had severely weakened immune systems and 82% had HIV.

Just 9% of the HIV patients were receiving antiretroviral therapy — medication that can suppress viral loads — making the virus nearly undetectable and therefore intransmissible.

Over time, HIV can weaken a person’s immune system, which makes it difficult to fight off diseases such as monkeypox, according to the CDC.

Of the remaining immunocompromised patients, 5% were solid organ transplant recipients. Five percent were pregnant and 3% — including one HIV patient — were undergoing chemotherapy.

Because the patients had weakened immune systems, their monkeypox symptoms were also more severe, the CDC said.

All the patients experienced severe rashes while 68% also had severe lesions on various body parts including the face, torso, hands, feet and genitals.

Some patients had damage to other organs, including the eyes, lungs, brain and spinal cord.

The World Health Organization says monkeypox can lead to complications including bacterial lung infections, sepsis, brain inflammation and infection of the cornea.

The report found 30% of patients received ICU care for their symptoms and 21% died. Of the 12 patients who died, monkeypox was a cause of death or contributing factor in five deaths and was not a factor in one death. The other six remain under investigation.

In addition, the report revealed further racial and ethnic disparities. Overall, 68% of patients were Black, highlighting not only the disproportionate effect the monkeypox outbreak has had on minorities but also the disproportionate risk Black Americans have of contracting HIV.

The authors say the report is a “reminder” of the severe consequences some patients can face and that public health officials and clinicians need to work to ensure not only that patients at risk for monkeypox are vaccinated but those with HIV receive treatment.

“Monkeypox and HIV have collided with tragic effects,” said CDC monkeypox incident commander Dr. Jonathan Mermin. “Today’s report reminds all of us that access to monkeypox and HIV prevention and treatment matters — for people’s lives and for public health.”

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