A virus first discovered in 2015 has just claimed its first victim near Alaska’s largest city.
An unidentified immunocompromised man died from “Alaskapox” in late January.
He lived in the woods of the Kenai Peninsula by himself, and it’s unclear how he contracted the virus.
Alaskapox – from the same genus as smallpox and monkeypox – was first discovered in 2015 in Fairbanks and is more common in small mammals.
This is the seventh human case overall, the first outside the Fairbanks area, and the first to lead to death.
Health authorities say the man reported being scratched by the cat in his armpit about a month before the rash began.
The case is significant because most other Alaskapox infections have been mild.
The man was probably more vulnerable to the infection because he was immunocompromised due to drugs from his cancer treatment, authorities say.
“People should not necessarily be concerned but more aware,” said state epidemiologist Julia Rogers in an interview with the Anchorage Daily News. “So we’re hoping to make clinicians more aware of what Alaskapox virus is, so that they can identify signs and symptoms.”
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