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Monday, February 26, 2024

Alaskapox. The first person died from the virus in Alaska

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An elderly Alaskan man is the first person to die after contracting the disease caused by the Alaskapox virus. According to the authorities, it is not clear how the infection occurred, but it may be that the deceased was taking care of a stray cat in his home that scratched him.

The man from the southern Kenai Peninsula was treated at a hospital and died in late January. The Alaska Department of Health said Friday that he had a history of weakened immune system due to medications he took, which likely contributed to the severity of the disease.

He was one of only seven people confirmed to have Alaskapox infection since 2015, when the virus was first identified in an adult. All previous patients did not require treatment and had a mild infection.

Alaskapox virus

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Alaskapox virus (AKPV), which can be translated as Alaskan pox virus, belongs to the same family of poxviruses of the Orthopoxvirus genus as monkeypox and cowpox viruses. The disease it causes is probably zoonotic and occurs mainly in Alaska mammals, occasionally spreading to humans. Symptoms include skin lesions, swollen lymph nodes and muscle pain.

In September 2023, the deceased man noticed a red lump under his arm and received antibiotics, but his health condition deteriorated: pain in the shoulder and arm became more severe, and skin lesions resembling smallpox appeared. Although his condition improved after a week of treatment, respiratory and renal failure soon developed, leading to his death.

There is currently no evidence that AKPV can be transmitted between people, but the Alaska Department of Health has recommended that patients additionally protect skin lesions with bandages.

Although the cat the deceased man was caring for was tested for AKPV and returned a negative result, epidemiologist Dr. Julia Rogers of the Department of Public Health warns that the virus mainly infects animals.

– When trapping and hunting, Alaskans should exercise caution when interacting with small (wild) mammals. When removing small mammals from traps, people should wear gloves, wash their hands and make sure their own pets do not come into contact with them, Rogers said, as quoted by Alaska Public Media.

Main photo source: Shutterstock

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