Alaskapox virus: Elderly man first reported person to die of the virus

Time Of Info By TOI Desk Report   February 13, 2024   Update on : February 13, 2024

Alaskapox virus
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An elderly man, who lived in the remote Kenai Peninsula, has died from Alaskapox, the first known fatality from the recently discovered virus.

The man was hospitalized last November and died in late January, said Alaska public health officials, reports Associated Press.

The man, who was undergoing cancer treatment, had a suppressed immune system because of the drugs, which may have contributed to the severity of his illness, the health bulletin said.

The health bulletin described him as elderly but did not provide his age.

The health officials said only six other cases of the virus have been reported to them since the first one in 2015. All infected people were living in the Fairbanks area, over 300 miles from the Kenai Peninsula.

All the patients had mild cases and recovered without being hospitalized.

The man, who died of the virus, reported no recent travel and no close contacts with recent travel, illness, or similar lesions,” the health bulletin said.

He resided alone in a forested area, the bulletin said.

The bulletin said it is not clear how Alaskapox virus or AKPV is transmitted.

Researchers say it may be zoonotic, that means it can jump from animals to humans.

Tests have found evidence of current or previous infection in several species of small mammals in the Fairbanks area and at least one domestic pet, the bulletin said.

Meanwhile, health authorities also asked Alaskans to follow federal health precautions to avoid potential Alaskapox infections.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has recommended washing hands with soap and water after contacting wild animals or their feces.

The agency suggested hunters should always wear gloves while handling dead animals.

What is Alaskapox?

According to health officials, Alaskapox, also known as AKPV, is related to smallpox, cowpox, and mpox. The virus causes a rash, swollen lymph nodes, and joint or muscle pain.

Alaskapox was discovered only recently, but Dr. Joe McLaughlin, state epidemiologist and chief of the Alaska Section of Epidemiology at the Alaska Department of Health, says the virus is endemic in small mammal populations in Alaska, regularly infecting red-backed voles. The virus shrews as well as other rodents like red squirrels, reports CNN.

The virus belongs to the orthopoxvirus genus that often infects mammals and causes skin lesions.

What are the Alaskapox symptoms?

According to the state Department of Health Apart from the latest case, all the Alaskapox patients have had mild illness that resolved on their own after a few weeks.

McLaughlin says symptoms typically include one or more skin lesions that look at first like a spider bite. Swollen lymph nodes, muscle pain, and fever also can happen.

How will patients get treatment?

If there’s any kind of series or individual symptoms, you should definitely go to your health care provider who can do an additional assessment and some testing.

McLaughlin says antiviral and immune-globulin treatments may be prescribed.


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