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First person dies from Alaskapox virus

An elderly man from Alaska has become the first person to die after contracting Alaskapox – a recently discovered viral disease, Sky News reports.

The man from Kenai Peninsula, to the south of the state, was undergoing treatment in hospital when he died in late January, officials confirmed.

He had a history of a drug-induced weakened immune system which likely contributed to the severity of his illness, the Alaskan health department reported.

The victim was one of only seven reported Alaskapox infections, with the first identified in 2015 in an adult who suffered from a localised rash and swollen lymph nodes.

All previous patients, also from the Fairbanks region, who had been diagnosed with the virus did not require treatment and suffered mild infections.

Alaskapox, or AKPV, is a double-stranded DNA virus with officials saying it appears to be zoonotic, primarily circulating across Alaska’s state mammals with occasional transmission to humans.

Symptoms have included one or more skin lesions, swollen lymph nodes and muscle pain.

Officials said the source of the man’s exposure to the virus was “unclear” – although he had reported caring for a stray cat at his home which had scratched him, possibly causing the transmission.


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