The health officials of Alaska confirmed the first death linked to the newly identified virus Alaskapox. The virus killed an elderly immunocompromised man from the Kenai Peninsula, South of Anchorage, in late January.
The Alaska Department of Public Health in a statement said that the man who was going through treatment at that time was one of the only seven reported Alaskapox infections.
Julia Rogers, a state epidemiologist, said that “People should not necessarily be concerned but more aware” and also that they were hoping to make clinicians more aware of what the Alaskapox virus is so that the clinicians can identify the signs and symptoms.
According to the officials, the man said that he lived alone in the woods and had not traveled recently. The officials assumed that the man may have contracted the disease from a house cat he lived with. The house cat killed small animals regularly and it scratched him when his symptoms first occurred. Although the cat test results showed negative for the virus, health officials believed that the virus spread from its claws.
In September, the man noticed a red lump under his right armpit and was prescribed antibiotics. Six weeks later, his symptoms worsened and included pain and fatigue. In December, the man was hospitalized in Anchorage and underwent a battery of tests. The initial results showed that he had cowpox. However, additional testing performed by the Centers for Disease Control showed that it was Alaskapox.
The health officials said that the man’s condition initially improved a week after the intravenous medication, but he died after experiencing kidney and respiratory failure.
Alaskapox is a double-stranded DNA virus, that comes from the same genus as smallpox, monkeypox, and cowpox. The Alaskapox was first identified in a lady in Fairbanks, Alaska in 2015, and it is most common in small mammals.
According to the State of Alaska’s website, to date, no human-to-human transmission of the Alaskapox virus has been reported. However, certain orthopoxviruses can be transmitted through direct contact with skin lesions, they suggested that people with skin lesions perhaps caused by Alaskapox keep the affected area covered with a bandage.
The symptoms include one or more skin lesions and other symptoms like swollen lymph nodes and joint or muscle pain and immunocompromised people might have an increased risk for more severe illness.
(Input from various sources)