An elderly man was the first victim to die from the Alaskapox virus, Alaska’s health department said in a bulletin last Friday but clarified that the man died last month.
The virus was first discovered in 2015 in a woman who lived near the city of Fairbanks and another six infections have since been reported as of December of last year, according to the Alaska Division of Public Health. The elderly man who died from the virus was the seventh recorded case.
Symptoms of Alaskapox include lesions – an abnormal or damaged tissue caused by injury, infection, or disease, as described by the National Cancer Institute. Following the death of the elderly man, the state health department that patients should avoid touching lesions and keep them covered and dry, ABC News quoted them as saying.
A deeper dive into the victim and his history with the virus
The victim of the virus lived alone in Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula “in a forested area and reported no recent travel and no close contacts with recent travel, illness, or similar lesions,” the bulletin stated. The man also cared for a stray cat, who was tested for antibodies and orthopoxvirus, which came back negative.
The man first found a tender red papule under his right armpit back in September of last year, the state’s health department said. He went through a biopsy which revealed no evidence of bacterial infection, but still experienced pain in his right armpit and shoulder area, and was hospitalized in November in Anchorage.
Alaskapox virus is more commonly found in the state’s small mammals, Alaska’s health agency said.
Before the man’s death, reports stated that he looked like he was improving, but his wounds did not heal. It is not known how the man came into contact with the Alaskapox virus, nor is it clear how it can be transmitted from animals to humans.