Alaskapox infections had previously only been recorded in the Fairbanks region.
The man, who was from Alaska’s remote Kenai Peninsula, is one of only seven known to have contracted Alaskapox virus since its discovery in a patient in Fairbanks in 2015.
Infection with the virus, also known as AKPV, has historically caused mild illness that resolves itself with symptoms including skin lesions, swollen lymph nodes, and joint or muscle pain, though severe disease is more likely in with compromised immune systems.
Officials from Alaska’s health department said the man likely suffered more serious disease as he was immunocompromised following treatment for cancer and previous patients have not required hospital treatment.
Scientists are not yet certain on how the Alaskapox virus spreads but say evidence suggests it is zoonotic—a disease that jumps from animals into humans—as it is primarily found in small mammals like red-backed voles and shrews.
While no human-to-human transmission of AKVP has been documented, officials suggested should cover any skin lesions potentially caused by the virus as contact with these is known to spread similar orthopoxviruses like mpox and smallpox.
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