Man dies in first known fatal case of Alaskapox virus

Man dies in first known fatal case of Alaskapox virus

An Alaska man died last month from Alaskapox, a rare virus that primarily affects small mammals and can cause skin lesions, according to state health officials.

Alaskapox was first identified in 2015 in a woman who lived near Fairbanks, Alaska, and seven total cases of the virus were reported to the Alaska Epidemiology Section. Until last month, no one had been hospitalized or died from Alaskapox, which can also cause swollen lymph nodes and muscle or joint pain, state epidemiology officials said Friday. Alaska.

Of the seven people who had Alaskapox, six lived in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, where voles and red-backed shrews have been found to carry the virus, according to the Alaska Department of Health. Alaskapox has not been found to spread between humans.

Dr. Julia Rogers, an epidemiologist at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an interview Tuesday that symptoms of Alaskapox infection are usually mild.

“There could have been cases in the past that we just didn’t detect because of this,” Dr. Rogers said, adding that it is possible that recorded cases will increase as more doctors learn to identify them.

The Alaska Section of Epidemiology, which did not release the name of the man who died from the virus, said in a statement. statement that he was “an elderly man from the Kenai Peninsula with a history of drug-induced immunosuppression.”

Alaska health officials said it was still unclear how the man contracted the virus. The man lived alone in a wooded area, had not traveled recently or had close contact with someone who had traveled recently, according to the state Department of Health.

The man told doctors that he was caring for a stray cat in his home and that the cat often scratched him, including once near his right armpit, about a month before he noticed a red papule was trained there in September 2023, Alaska Health. » officials said. The cat was later tested for other orthopox viruses, and all tests came back negative, according to the Department of Health. Still, health officials said it was possible the stray cat was the source of the virus.

Dr Rogers said it was possible the stray cat’s claws carried the virus by scratching around other rodents.

“But we cannot say with certainty how the specific mode of transmission occurred in this patient or in previous patients,” Dr. Rogers said.

Dr. Joe McLaughlin, Alaska State Epidemiologist and Chief of the Alaska Epidemiology Section, said in an interview that all patients who have had Alaskapox have had a cat or dog, and that health officials are working to determine what role pets might play. play in the spread of the virus.

“Because Alaskapox is rare, our No. 1 message is that Alaskans should not be overly concerned about this virus,” Dr. McLaughlin said, “but instead should be aware of it.”

In the six weeks following the discovery of the lesion, the man made several visits to his primary care physician and to the local emergency room due to the lesion, according to the Ministry of Health. He was prescribed several rounds of antibiotics, which did not help, health officials said.

The man was hospitalized Nov. 17 because the injury affected his ability to move his arm, and he was later transferred to a hospital in nearby Anchorage, health officials said. While hospitalized there, the man said he felt “burning pain” and four small lesions resembling pox were found all over his body, health officials said.

After a number of tests, health officials said, doctors were able to rule out smallpox, mpox and other viruses. A swab of the man’s lesion was then sent to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which found it matched other cases of Alaskapox, according to health officials.

While the man was hospitalized, health officials said, he began suffering from injuries that took time to heal, malnutrition, acute kidney failure and respiratory failure. He died at the end of January, the Health Ministry said.

Dr. McLaughlin said that because immunocompromised people have had more severe symptoms with other orthopox viruses, it is important for Alaska doctors to make an early diagnosis of Alaskapox.

Avatar photo

Eric D. Eilerman

Related Posts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Read also x