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An elderly man has become the first recorded patient to die from ‘Alaskapox’ – a recently discovered virus closely related to smallpox.
The man who died from AKPV was immunocompromised and undergoing treatment for cancer, leading to complications after one of his skin lesions became infected. This resulted in kidney failure and ultimately his death in late January.
He lived alone in a remote part of Kenai Peninsula, Alaska, and was thought to have been infected after being scratched by a stray cat, according to officials.
There is no evidence that AKPV can be transmitted between humans, although Alaskan health officials advised skin lesions should be covered with bandages as an extra precaution.
The Alaska Department of Health also warned that domestic pets such as cats and dogs “may also play a role in spreading the virus.”
Dr Stathis Giotis, a Research Fellow at the Department of Infectious Disease at Imperial College London and lecturer of Molecular Virology at the University of Essex, said scientists had yet to establish the pathogen’s main route of transmission.
“There is no reason to be alarmed, however. It is always good to be better informed our interactions with wildlife. Washing our hands carefully with soap or alcohol-based products helps to protect against viruses, as well as recognising the signs of infection.”
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