Elderly man is confirmed as first person to die from Alaskapox virus

Elderly man is confirmed as first person to die from Alaskapox virus

The man who died was from Kenai Peninsula in Alaska (Picture: Wolfgang Kaehler/LightRocket via Getty Images)

An elderly man from Alaska has become the first person to die after contracting Alaskapox.

The recently discovered viral disease is a double-stranded DNA virus which is believed to mainly circulate between mammals, occasionally transmitting to humans.

Symptoms include skin lesions, swollen lymph nodes, and muscle pain.

The victim, from Kenai Peninsula in Alaska, was receiving treatment for the illness in hospital when he died in late January, the Alaskan health department confirmed.

The department added the man had a history of a drug-induced weakened immune system which likely contributed to the severity of his illness.

The victim is one of only seven confirmed Alaskapox infections, Sky News reports. The first was identified in an adult in 2015 who suffered a rash and swollen lymph nodes.

An Alaskapox lesion about 10 days after symptom onset (Picture: Alaska Department of Health)

All previous patients, all from the Fairbanks region, didn’t need treatment and only suffered mild infections.

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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A health department report said the Alaskapox virus merited ‘increased statewide awareness’ among medical staff, due to its seemingly widespread transmission in small mammals.

It recommended anyone with suspected Alaskapox should avoid touching lesions, keep them dry and covered, and regularly washing hands.

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