Man Dies in First Known Fatal Case of Alaskapox

The Alaskapox virus is normally found in small mammals, including red-backed voles like the one above.

THE NEW YORK TIMES – An Alaska man died last month of Alaskapox, a rare virus that occurs mostly in small mammals and can cause skin lesions, according to state health officials.

Alaskapox was first identified in 2015 in a woman who lived near Fairbanks, Alaska, and there have been a total of seven cases of the virus reported to the Alaska Section of Epidemiology.

Until last month, no one had been hospitalized or died of Alaskapox, which can also cause swollen lymph nodes and muscle or joint pain, Alaska epidemiology officials said on Friday.

Of the seven people who have had Alaskapox, six lived in the Fairbanks North Star Borough, where red-backed voles and shrews have been found to have the virus, according to the Alaska Department of Health.

Alaskapox has not been found to spread between humans.

“Dr. Julia Rogers, an epidemiologist with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said in an interview on Tuesday that the symptoms from Alaskapox infection were generally ‘mild.'”

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“There could have been cases in the past that we just did not pick up because of that,” Dr. Rogers said, adding that it is possible that recorded cases could increase as more doctors learn how to identify it.

The Alaska Section of Epidemiology, which did not release the name of the man who died of the virus, said in a statement that he was “an elderly man from the Kenai Peninsula with a history of drug-induced immunosuppression.” [The victim had been treated for cancer, reported the Cox Media Group.]

Alaska health officials said that it was still unclear how the man had contracted the virus.

The man lived alone in a forested area, had not traveled recently or had close contact with someone who had traveled recently, according to the state Health Department …

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