New Virus Causing “Alaskapox” Found In Two More People In Fairbanks

A relatively new virus causing a disease called “Alaskapox” has infected two more people in Fairbanks, Alaska.

Alaskapox was first described in a person in 2015, with another infection discovered in August 2020 bringing the total number of people infected so far to four. All four cases have been in the Fairbanks area.

The two new cases were reported last week by the Alaska department of Health and Social Services and involved a young child and middle-aged woman. Both patients were diagnosed after going to an urgent care clinic after finding lesions on their bodies and also experienced other symptoms including fever and joint pain. Both patients recovered after approximately three weeks.

DNA sequencing of the skin lesions revealed that the cause was a type of virus called an orthopoxvirus. These are double-stranded DNA viruses, different from SARS-CoV2 which causes Covid-19 and is an RNA virus. Other examples of orthopoxviruses are cowpox, smallpox and monkeypox, a case of which was recently found in the U.S. for the first time since 2003 in a man who travelled from Nigeria. However, so far, Alaskapox appears to be mild in comparison to these other, similar viruses and crucially, scientists have found no evidence that it can be transmitted between people.

Neither of the two people had travelled outside of Fairbanks in the month previous to developing symptoms and public health experts don’t currently know where they might have contracted the virus. Alaskapox is carried by small, wild animals in the area and may be transmitted to people either by contact with their feces, or perhaps via their domestic pets, such as cats, which hunt and eat the small animals.

Scientists from the University of Alaska Fairbanks are currently investigating which animals harbor the Alaskapox virus by trapping them to take blood and tissue samples to search for the virus. Samples collected last year showed evidence of the virus in squirrels, voles and shrews, but exactly how the virus gets from these animals to people remains unknown.

Read more here: Source link