An elderly Alaskan became the first person to die after contracting Alaska smallpox, a recently discovered viral disease.
Symptoms of Alaskan smallpox (Representative image)
An elderly Alaskan became the first person to die after contracting Alaska smallpox, a recently discovered viral disease. The man from the Kenai Peninsula, in the south of the state, died in a hospital in late January, authorities revealed.
Authorities stated that the victim’s exposure to the virus was “unclear”; However, he had reported that he was caring for a stray cat at his house that had scratched him, perhaps triggering transmission.
He had a history of drug-induced immune system weakness, which likely contributed to the severity of his condition, according to the Alaska Department of Health.
The victim was one of seven documented Alaska smallpox infections, the first of which occurred in 2015 in an adult who had a localized rash and swollen lymph nodes.
All people previously diagnosed with the virus, including those in the Fairbanks region, did not require treatment and only developed minor illnesses.
Alaskan smallpox, or AKPV, is a double-stranded DNA virus that appears to be zoonotic and spread predominantly among animals in the state of Alaska, but sometimes infects people.
Symptoms include one or more skin lesions, enlarged lymph nodes, and muscle pain.
Authorities said the man’s exposure to the virus was “unclear,” although he had reported caring for a stray cat in his home that had scratched him, perhaps triggering transmission.
The victim saw a red lump in her armpit in September and was given antibiotics, but her symptoms worsened, including exhaustion and increasing discomfort in the region and shoulder.
After the range of motion in his right arm was compromised, the man was sent to a hospital in Anchorage, where he reported more symptoms, including smallpox-like lesions, according to the case report.
While his health improved after a week of therapy, he quickly developed delayed wound healing, respiratory and kidney failure, which led to his death.
According to the notice, the man improved about a week after receiving intravenous medications, but died in late January from kidney failure and other systemic declines.
The report said APKV warranted “increased statewide awareness” among physicians because of its apparent extensive transmission in small animals.
He gave nine tips to people with suspected Alaska smallpox, including not handling the lesions, keeping them dry and covered, and practicing hand hygiene.