Man Dies After Contracting Alaskapox

( – Viruses and bacteria are living organisms just like humans and animals, and we all share this big blue marble called the planet Earth. At times, they can wreak havoc around the globe as seen with the pandemic that came out of the People’s Republic of China (PRC) and began taking country after country into its grip in early 2020.

On other occasions, the bugs can pique interest when they are relatively unknown and their impact is on a vastly different scale. An elderly man from America’s 49th state now holds the dubious distinction of being the first known fatality amongst humans of Alaskapox.

Headed North

The unidentified man who died after being infected with the Alaskapox virus (AKPV) lived in Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula Borough, which lies on the northernmost reaches of the Gulf of Alaska, according to a bulletin put out by the state Department of Health. It goes on to describe him as living in a forested area where he would take care of “a stray cat that regularly hunted small mammals and frequently scratched the patient.”

The press release goes on to describe the victim as having a compromised immune system and says that he came to see his doctor in September 2023 after noticing a new lesion in the area of his right armpit. He made repeated visits to his primary care physician and nearby emergency department until he was eventually admitted to the hospital on November 17.

Doctors initially diagnosed and began treating their patient for “infectious cellulitis,” in other words, a skin infection. However, when his symptoms worsened, they performed more extensive testing which confirmed the presence of an orthopoxvirus, a classification of diseases that includes the deadly smallpox virus.

With this new information in hand, doctors began treating the extremely sick man with intravenous and oral medications known to be effective on smallpox and other similar infections. While he seemed to experience improvement over the first week or so, he took a turn for the worse and exhibited “malnutrition, acute renal failure, and respiratory failure” until he eventually passed away toward the end of January.

The Department of Health bulletin notes that there are only seven other known cases of Alaskapox, and all occurred in the interior region of the area near Fairbanks, so it would not be unreasonable to assume its rarity could have played a part in the delay in recognizing the correct disease.

The agency is now recommending that medical personnel familiarize themselves with the symptoms that will present with this illness and to more quickly test for the presence of an orthopoxvirus when they see the potential signs of it.

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