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For those with HIV or weak immune systems, monkeypox can be fatal -U.S. study

People with severely weakened immune systems, such as those infected with HIV, can experience severe symptoms and even die from a monkeypox
infection, according to a U.S. study released on Wednesday.

October 27, 2022
By Julie Steenhuysen
27 October 2022

By Julie Steenhuysen

CHICAGO, Oct 26 (Reuters) – People with severely
weakened immune systems, such as those infected with HIV, can
experience severe symptoms and even die from a monkeypox
infection, according to a U.S. study released on Wednesday.

The study looked at cases of 57 U.S. patients hospitalized
with severe monkeypox complications. Almost all (83%) had
severely weakened immune systems, most often because of
infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Many of
those patients were not being treated for the virus that causes
AIDS.

“Monkeypox and HIV have collided with tragic effects” Dr.
Jonathan Mermin, leader of the monkeypox response for the U.S.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), said in a
statement.

“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,” he said.

More than 90 countries where monkeypox is not endemic have
reported outbreaks of the viral disease, which the World Health
Organization has declared a global health emergency. Confirmed
cases have reached 76,757.

Just over 28,000 people in the United States have been
infected with monkeypox since the start of the outbreak in May.
Cases in the United States started peaking in mid-August and
have since dropped sharply, helped by the rollout of vaccines.

Deaths outside of Africa, where the virus is endemic, are
rare, as are deaths caused by the form of the virus now
circulating in the United States – Clade IIb.

For the study, health officials investigated some of the
most severe cases of monkeypox, which spreads through close
contact with an infected person.

Overall, it found that 47 of these individuals were also
infected with HIV, yet only four of them were receiving
antiretroviral therapy, powerful drugs that keep the virus in
check. Most (95%) were male, and 68% were Black.

According to the analysis, 17 patients required care in an
intensive care unit, and 12 have died, including five in which
monkeypox was a contributing factor or the confirmed cause of
death.

The researchers urged healthcare workers to test all
sexually active patients with suspected monkeypox infections for
HIV at the time of monkeypox testing, unless the patient’s HIV
status is already known.

For those with suspected monkeypox infections who test
positive for HIV, the CDC urged providers to start the patient
on monkeypox treatment as soon as possible, potentially even
before monkeypox infection is confirmed. The agency also
recommended that doctors start HIV treatment for those who test
positive for that virus as soon as possible.

(Reporting by Julie Steenhuysen
Editing by Bill Berkrot)

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