PORTSMOUTH, Va. (WAVY) — A person in the eastern part of Virginia is the first to be diagnosed with monkeypox to die from the disease in the commonwealth, the Virginia Department of Health reported Thursday.

VDH is not releasing additional information surrounding the case, citing patient confidentiality, but said the person was an adult resident of the region.

“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.”

Monkeypox is now being referred to as “mpox” in Virginia. The World Health Organization just recently decided to change the name that was used for decades, citing concerns it was discriminatory and racist.

While the U.S. outbreak of the disease has gone down significantly since its surge this summer (to about a handful of cases nationwide per day compared to more than 400 per day), there are still are about 15 cases reported daily across the country, Katherine Wu with The Atlantic reported this week. The vast majority of cases are not life-threatening and “mild,” with 15 deaths reported among nearly 30,000 reported cases in the U.S., however the rash that accompanies the disease is painful and can leave scarring.

Virginia reported three cases the week of Nov. 20-26, and two cases the previous week. So far the commonwealth has seen 558 total cases, 24 hospitalizations due to the disease and one death, VDH data as of December 1 shows.

The disease continues to mostly affect men who have sex with men, but woman and nonbinary people have also been getting sick. It’s spread through prolonged intimate contact with someone who has symptoms, though scientists are still researching whether it can be spread by someone without symptoms.

Those symptoms include a rash/scabs, a fever, chills and swollen lymph nodes. Those diagnosed with monkeypox should stay home and avoid close contact until the rash is resolved, VDH says.

8,641 people in Virginia had received both doses of the JYNNEOS vaccine for the disease as of Dec. 1, mostly in Northern Virginia. The vaccine is not recommended for the general public, only for groups that have a higher risk of exposure, which now includes anyone living with HIV or AIDS and anyone recently diagnosed with a sexually transmitted infection. Black people account for 44.1% (246) of cases in Virginia, the most by race, followed by 25.6% for white people and 17.2% for Latinos.

Despite accounting for a major of monkeypox cases, Black and Latino people have received far fewer numbers of the vaccine.

Monkey vaccination numbers in Virginia as of Dec. 1 (Courtesy of Virginia Department of Health)

Physicians say they’ve had trouble getting people vaccinated because some may be concerned with outing themselves as being LGBTQ, particularly in areas such as the South and Southwest that tend to be more conservative.

In Hampton Roads, The LGBT Life Center received a grant this fall for a digital and print education campaign to get people vaccinated, with translations in Spanish, and for rides to the health department and pop-up clinics, such as those at MJ’s Tavern in Norfolk.

VDH ended its Military Circle Mall vaccination site in November, citing “greatly reduced” demand, but you can contact your local health department for information on getting a vaccine. You can also call (877) VAX-IN-VA – (877) 829-4682 – Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.

The Biden administration declared a public health emergency for monkeypox back in August, after criticism over a slow rollout of vaccines, but is preparing to possibly end its emergency declaration, Politico reported this week.

However Sara Bares, an infectious-disease physician at the University of Nebraska Medical Center, told The Atlantic “I’m not convinced that we’re out of the woods.”