An elderly Alaskan man has become the first person to die after contracting Alaskapox, a newly discovered viral disease.
The man from the Kenai Peninsula in the south of the state was hospitalized when he died in late January, authorities confirmed.
He had a history of drug-induced weakening of the immune system, which likely contributed to the severity of his illness, the Alaska Department of Health reported.
The victim was one of seven reported Alaskapox infections, the first of which was identified in 2015 in an adult suffering from a localized rash and swollen lymph nodes.
All previous patients, also from the Fairbanks area, diagnosed with the virus did not need treatment and had mild infections.
Alaskapox, or AKPV, is a double-stranded DNA virus. Officials say it appears to be zoonotic and is primarily circulating throughout the country. that of Alaska condition of mammals with occasional transmission to humans.
Symptoms included one or more skin lesions, swollen lymph nodes and muscle pain.
Officials said the source of the man’s exposure to the virus was “unclear” – although he reported caring for a stray cat at his home that had scratched him, which could be the origin of the transmission.
The man spotted a red bump under his armpit in September and was given antibiotics, but his symptoms worsened as he experienced fatigue and increased pain in the area and shoulder.
After the range of motion in his right arm was affected, the man was transferred to an Anchorage hospital where he reported other symptoms, including lesions resembling pox, according to the case report.
An “extensive battery” of tests was carried out and showed a positive result for cowpox.
Although his condition improved a week after starting therapy, he would soon suffer from delayed wound healing, respiratory and renal failure, leading to his death.
The man’s condition began to improve about a week after treatment with intravenous medications, but he died in late January from kidney failure and other systemic declines, according to the bulletin.
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The report said APKV merits “increased statewide awareness” among physicians because of its apparently widespread transmission among small mammals.
He outlined nine recommendations for people suspected of Alaskapox, including avoiding touching the lesions, keeping them dry and covered, and following hand hygiene practices.