Officials Record First Fatal Case Of Newly Discovered Alaskapox

An Alaska man is the first confirmed fatality attributed to Alaskapox, a newly identified viral disease which is spread by small mammals and related to monkeypox and smallpox. Scientists were not aware of its existence until 2015.

The victim is described as an elderly immunocompromised man from south of Anchorage. Media reports said he died in late January while undergoing treatment.

He was one of seven patients suffering from Alaskapox infections, according to a statement released by the Alaska Department of Public Health on Friday.

Officials called for awareness but not a high level of concern.

State epidemiologist Julia Rogers noted “People should not necessarily be concerned but more aware. So we’re hoping to make clinicians more aware of what Alaskapox virus is so that they can identify signs and symptoms.

The virus originates from the same genus as smallpox, monkeypox, and cowpox, according to experts. It is most common in small mammals and was first identified in humans when an adult was determined to be infected in Fairbanks, Alaska, in 2015.

The recent fatality was the first case identified outside of the state’s interior. It was several months before the diagnosis was made due to the normally mild symptoms found in infected patients.

Those markers generally include swollen lymph nodes and a localized rash.

The patient who died had an immune system that was compromised due to undergoing cancer treatments. He first reported infection signs in September after a lesion formed in his armpit area.

Despite treatment, the infection got worse, and he was hospitalized. As his arm deteriorated, he was then moved to a larger medical facility in Anchorage for more tests to identify the infection.

Even with the intensive care he received, state health officials reported in the bulletin that he suffered renal failure, respiratory failure, and malnutrition. He succumbed to Alaskapox late last month.

The virus is not considered as dangerous as that which causes monkeypox and smallpox. It is prominently found in the vole population, which are small mammals that are common across Alaska.

The cases that have thus far been diagnosed have a common link — the wooded surroundings of the victims’ homes. All of the infected apparently had household pets that are believed to have had contact with small wild animals.