A Tragic Milestone was Reached as a Man Succumbed to What is now the First Documented Fatality of Alaskapox

A Tragic Milestone was Reached as a Man Succumbed to What is now the First Documented Fatality of Alaskapox

Last month, Alaska state health officials confirmed the death of a man due to Alaskapox, a rare virus primarily found in small mammals, known to cause skin lesions. This marks the first reported fatality attributed to the virus. Since its identification in 2015 in a woman residing near Fairbanks, Alaska, there have been a total of seven documented cases reported to the Alaska Section of Epidemiology. Until this recent incident, there had been no hospitalizations or fatalities associated with Alaskapox. Alongside skin lesions, the virus can manifest symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes and muscle or joint pain, as highlighted by Alaska epidemiology officials.

According to the Alaska Department of Health, of the seven individuals affected by Alaskapox, six resided in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, where red-backed voles and shrews, known carriers of the virus, have been identified. Notably, Alaskapox is not known to transmit between humans.

Dr. Julia Rogers, an epidemiologist from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, explained in an interview on Tuesday that symptoms resulting from Alaskapox infection are typically mild. She suggested that there might have been undetected cases in the past due to this mild presentation. Dr. Rogers further indicated that recorded cases might rise as more healthcare professionals become adept at recognizing the virus.

The Alaska Section of Epidemiology, refraining from disclosing the identity of the deceased individual, revealed in a statement that he was “an elderly man from the Kenai Peninsula with a history of drug-induced immunosuppression.”

Alaska health authorities expressed uncertainty regarding how the man contracted the virus. Despite residing alone in a wooded region, investigations found no recent travel history or close contact with individuals who had recently traveled, as per the state Health Department.

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