The man, who was identified as a resident of the Kenai Peninsula Borough, was undergoing treatment in Anchorage when he died in January, Alaska state health officials confirmed via the Anchorage Daily News last Friday (February 9). Health officials initially discovered the double-stranded-DNA virus in 2015, which comes from the same genus as smallpox, monkeypox and cowpox and is commonly found in small mammals such as voles and shrews.
The casualty was among seven Alaskapox patients reported to be infected, the State of Alaska Epidemiology announced in a bulletin shared last Friday updating the viral disease. The fatal case reportedly took months to diagnose as previous Alaskapox infections were reported to be mild, according to state health officials.
The case was also the first to be reported outside of the Fairbanks area and the man's immunocompromised status is believed to have led to the illness becoming severe. Prior mild infections included localized rash and swollen lymph nodes with all patients having healthy immune systems and, therefore, not needing treatment, Alaska state epidemiology chief Dr. Joe McLaughlin confirmed to the Anchorage Daily.
The fatal case leads health officials to believe that the virus could be more widespread among small animals than initially believed, which has led to state recommendations to medical providers to confirms that they've successfully recognized symptoms.