Officials Report First Alaskapox Virus Death

Officials Report First Alaskapox Virus Death

( – Alaskapox virus, first identified in Alaska, can infect animals and humans. The disease was previously known to cause illness in people but was not considered fatal. It has been documented a few times since its discovery, with symptoms typically including fever, fatigue, and the development of a distinctive rash or lesions. Alaskan health officials have reported its first human fatality attributed to the Alaskapox virus, marking a significant moment in the history of this obscure affliction.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services (DHSS) has been closely monitoring the situation since September 2023 and announced the man’s death through its Division of Epidemiology. According to the report, the man developed symptoms consistent with Alaskapox infection in September. While the report said it wasn’t clear how he contracted the illness, it noted that a possible source was a stray cat he’d come into contact with. Despite receiving medical care, the man’s condition worsened, leading to his untimely death in late January.

The case report covering the patient’s death noted that at some point, he had undergone cancer treatment and had a suppressed immune system due to drugs he was taking. It stated that the person’s suppressed immune system most likely helped exacerbate his illness.

The incident has raised alarms over the potential risks posed by Alaskapox, prompting health authorities to intensify their surveillance and public education efforts regarding poxviruses. It also underscores the importance of understanding emerging infectious diseases and the potential for zoonotic transmission, where viruses jump from animals to humans.

The DHSS and the Alaska Section of Epidemiology have published a webpage and a two-page FAQ sheet on Alaskapox, emphasizing the need for caution when dealing with wild or stray animals and advocating for prompt medical attention if one develops symptoms suggestive of a poxvirus infection.

As investigations continue, health officials are working to learn more about the transmission dynamics of Alaskapox and strategies to prevent future infections, ensuring the safety and well-being of the state’s residents and the broader public.

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