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Symptoms of mystery 'Alaskapox' virus as first person dies from illness

Symptoms of mystery 'Alaskapox' virus as first person dies from illness

The recently-discovered virus is likely spread by mammals

The first person has died from the mystery ‘Alaskapox’ disease.

A elderly man from Kenai Peninsula in southern Alaska died in late January after contracting the disease.

He had been undergoing treatment in hospital, officials reported.

He was one of only seven reported Alaskapox infections, known to be a viral illness which was first identified back in 2015.

While officials say it is primarily circulating across Alaska’s state mammals at the moment, its worth being aware of the symptoms - just in case.

Alaskapox was first identified back in 2015.
Alaska Department of Health

How is Alaskapox spread?

It’s ‘unclear’ just what the source of the victim’s exposure to Alaskapox was, but he has apparently been looking after a stray cat which had scratched him which may have caused the transmission, according to the case report.

The Alaska Department of Health have warned that domestic pets, like beloved cats and dogs, might also play a role in spreading it alongside small mammals like red-backed voles.

Alaskapox belongs to the orthopoxvirus family which includes the more commonly-known monkeypox and smallpox (although anyone who listened in history classes will know that was eradicated).

There hasn’t yet been a record of Alaskapox being transmitted from human to human, but other orthopovirus like monkeypox have been shown to pass directly through contact with infected people.

What are the symptoms of Alaskapox?

According to Sky News, the man noticed a red bump in his armpit in September, with his symptoms getting worse despite taking antibiotics.

The area and his shoulder began to get more painful, with his mobility in the arm becoming limited.

A key symptom of Alaskapox is ‘one or more skin lesions’ like bumps or bulging patches.

Example of a lesion.
Alaska Department of Health

Other symptoms also include swollen lymph nodes and joint and/or muscle pain.

The victim also reportedly became increasingly fatigued as his symptoms developed.

The Alaskan Department of Health is recommending anyone with these lesions potentially caused by Alaskapox to keep the area dry and covered with a bandage.

How deadly is Alaskapox?

Medics also noted the man who died had a number of ‘pox-like lesions’.

Despite some improvement after one week in therapy, however, he suffered further complications which resulted in kidney failure and his death this year.

According to the case report, the man was given a biopsy - with the area struggling to heal and 'draining copious serous fluid with a surrounding gray coalescent plaque'.

With only six other patients known to have had Alaskapox, this man is the first to die as they had mild illness which resolved on their own after a few weeks.

The Alaskan Health Department also reported that the man had a history of a drug-induced weakened immune system due to cancer treatment, which they believe is likely to have contributed to the severity of how sick he became.

Featured Image Credit: Alaska Department of Health

Topics: Health, US News