Outbreak of Alaskapox rocks state

Scientists are still investigating how the smallpox-like disease infects humans, as two people recover

Gino Spocchia
Tuesday 21 September 2021 15:49
<p>Images of the virus known as “Alaskapox”</p>

Images of the virus known as “Alaskapox”

Alaskan authorities have said two more cases of “Alaskapox” have been found in the state, with a child and middle-aged woman contracting the rare disease.

“Alaskapox”, as the virus is informally known, was first detected in a person in 2015, and another in August 2020, and all four infections have so far been in the Fairbanks area, according to officials.

In an announcement last week, Alaska’s public health department acknowledged the new infections, which were detected in July and August after a child and middle-aged woman found lesions on their bodies.

The pair also reported symptoms including fever and joint pain, and recovered after approximately three weeks, it was said. So far, there have been no deaths from any known cases of “Alaskapox”.

The disease, which is different to that of SARS-CoV2 – or Covid-19 – is called an orthopoxvirus and is double stranded and mainly found in small mammals. Similar viruses include cowpox, smallpox and monkeypox.

According to The Anchorage Daily , scientists believe the small animals could have transferred the disease to those who contracted “Alaskapox”. However, it is not believed that people can pass the virus on to others.

Antibodies for the rare disease were found by scientists in a number of squirrels, vowels and shrews last year – and scientists at the University of Alaska reportedly investigating how the virus spreads from small mammals to people.

The finding was made after traps were set in the woodlands around Fairbanks, allowing scientists to take tissue and blood samples of the creatures.

“Alaskapox” could also be transferred from small mammals to people via domestic animals and pets, although those belonging to the two new infections did not have traces of the virus, officials said.

Neither of the two people who contracted the virus had been outside of Fairbanks, more than 360 miles north of Anchorage, in the four weeks before falling ill, officials added.

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