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Indiana reports first monkeypox death, but virus slowed by vaccine availability

The back of a gloved hand works with vials in a laboratory. There are several red-capped vials and one blue-capped vial to the right.
Courtesy of IU Health
A member of IU Health's monkeypox testing lab works with vials. Since June, more than 260 cases of monkeypox have been reported in Indiana.

The Indiana Department of Health announced Wednesday the first person in Indiana has died from monkeypox.

In its announcement, IDOH said monkeypox was a factor, but other health conditions also contributed to their death. No other information will be released about the person due to patient privacy laws.

More than 260 cases of monkeypox have been identified in Indiana since June, with the peak of cases back in August. But infections had significantly tapered off with the availability of vaccines.

In a statement, State Health Commissioner Dr. Kris Box said, “Although monkeypox cases in Indiana have declined significantly as a result of the availability of vaccine, it is important to remember that this disease is still circulating and can cause severe illness and death. Our hearts go out to the family of this Hoosier, and I encourage anyone who is at risk to protect themselves by getting vaccinated.”

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Monkeypox is spread through skin-to-skin contact, touching monkeypox sores, or through respiratory droplets during prolonged exposure. Symptoms usually start within 21 days of exposure to the virus, and the most reported symptom is a rash.

The state health department said most people who get monkeypox recover without any serious complications or the need for medical treatment. However, people living with a condition that weakens the immune system, such as advanced or untreated HIV, AIDS, certain cancers, an organ transplant or other immune deficiency disorders, may be more likely to have serious complications or need treatment. In rare occasions, severe illnesses may lead to death.

IDOH said those seeking a monkeypox vaccine should contact their health care provider or local health department.

Contact Lauren at lchapman@wfyi.org or follow her on Twitter at @laurenechapman_.

Lauren is the digital editor for our statewide collaboration, and is based in Indianapolis at WFYI. Since starting for IPB News in 2016, she's covered everything from protests and COVID-19 to esports and policy. She's a proud Ball State University alumna and grew up on the west side of Indianapolis.