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What is Alaskapox? The disease has claimed its first fatality


Alaska public health officials have disclosed the first known human death from Alaskapox, a virus typically found in small mammals.

No human-to-human transmission of Alaskapox has been detected so far, and there have been no known cases outside of the state for which the virus is named. California health officials confirmed that no cases of the virus have been reported in the state.

The first known person to die from the virus was an elderly man on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula who was undergoing treatment for cancer, state health officials said in a bulletin released late last week.

The man’s symptoms began in mid-September with a painful red lesion near his shoulder that did not respond to antibiotic treatment. At the time of his hospitalization in November, he complained of burning pain that made it difficult to move his arm. Doctors noted four additional sores on other parts of his body and sent swabs of the lesions to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention for testing.

The man was taking medication to treat his cancer, and the medication was hampering his immune system. Despite some positive response to antiviral treatment, his health deteriorated rapidly in hospital and he died in January.

The man was only the seventh person known to have been infected with the virus since it was first detected in humans in 2015, according to the Alaska Department of Public Health. He was also the first person to be sick enough to require hospitalization.

“The patient’s immunocompromised status likely contributed to the severity of the illness,” state health officials said. said in a report.

All previous patients complained of swollen lymph nodes and muscle pain which resolved within a few weeks. The virus also causes one or more red, uncomfortable skin lesions, which several previous patients have mistaken for spider or insect bites.

Testing in 2020 and 2021 found the virus present in several species of small mammals in the Fairbanks region of Alaska, particularly shrews and red-backed voles. The man who died in January was the first person outside the Fairbanks area to be diagnosed with the virus, a sign the virus has spread to mammals outside that area, health officials said.

The man lived alone in a forested area and had no known travel or contact with potentially infected people.

He cared for a stray cat prone to both chasing small mammals and scratching its human guardian, state officials noted. The cat had scratched the man on the shoulder a month before the symptoms began, near where his first lesion was discovered. However, officials noted that they could not be sure that this was how the man contracted the virus.

“Wild animals can carry germs that can spread to humans through direct or indirect contact and make people sick,” a California Department of Public Health spokesperson said in an email. “Even if an animal appears healthy, it can still spread germs that can cause disease. Do not touch or approach wild animals or any animals you do not know.

Alaskapox is an orthopoxvirus, a genus of virus that includes smallpox and Mpox, formerly known as monkeypox.

Although no cases of human-to-human transmission of Alaskapox have been reported, Alaska health officials have noted that other orthopoxviruses can be spread through close contact with an infected person’s lesions. This is how health officials believe Mpox spread during the brief 2022 outbreak, in which a virus previously detected in west and central Africa suddenly spread to Europe and the United States. United.

Anyone with suspicious lesions who thinks they may have the virus should cover the wound with a bandage until they can seek medical attention and avoid sharing clothing or bedding with anyone else. , Alaska Division of Public Health. said.



Note: The content and images used in this article is rewritten and sourced from www.latimes.com

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