What is Alaskapox? Alaska resident becomes first person to die from virus

The man was from Kenai Peninsula, a borough in the south of the US state of Alaska (pictured) (Radhika Aligh)
The man was from Kenai Peninsula, a borough in the south of the US state of Alaska (pictured) (Radhika Aligh)

An elderly man from the American state of Alaska has reportedly become the first person to die from Alaskapox.

Sky News reported that the man, from Kenai Peninsula to the south of Alaska, was according to the Alaskan health department receiving hospital treatment when he died in late January.

Officials said his immunocompromised condition could have contributed to the severity of his illness.

They said the source of the man's exposure to the virus was "unclear". However, he had reported caring for a stray cat at his home which had scratched him — possibly causing the transmission.

The man spotted a red bump in his armpit in September and was given antibiotics. However, he suffered fatigue and increased pain in the area and shoulder.

Although his condition improved after a week, he died from delayed wound healing and respiratory and kidney failure.

Sky News said the man was one of seven confirmed Alaskapox infections.

What is Alaskapox?

Alaskapox is a double-stranded DNA virus believed to circulate between mammals, with occasional transmission to humans.

It is a species of the Orthopoxvirus genus.

The State of Alaska’s website says: “To date, no human-to-human transmission of Alaskapox virus has been documented. However, since certain orthopoxviruses can be transmitted through direct contact with skin lesions, we recommend that people with skin lesions possibly caused by Alaskapox keep the affected area covered with a bandage.”

Health officials also recommend that sufferers should regularly wash their hands.

What are the symptoms of Alaskapox?

Symptoms of Alaskapox have included one or more skin lesions (bumps or pustules), as well as swollen lymph nodes and joint and/or muscle pain. Immunocompromised people might be at increased risk for more severe illness.

When was Alaskapox first discovered?

Sky News said the first case in 2015 involved an adult who suffered a rash and swollen lymph nodes.