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Alaskapox Virus: What You Need to Know About the Unusual Virus

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Alaskapox Virus: For nearly a decade, health officials in Alaska have been monitoring an unusual virus known as Alaskapox, which has caused rare, relatively mild illnesses in the Fairbanks area. However, a recent case resulting in a man’s death elsewhere in the state has brought renewed attention to this peculiar virus.

What exactly is the Alaskapox Virus?

Belonging to the orthopoxvirus family, Alaskapox is characterized by brick-shaped viruses capable of infecting both animals and humans. While it typically manifests with lesions or pox on the skin, each virus within this family exhibits unique characteristics. Alongside smallpox, other members include camelpox, cowpox, horsepox, and mpox (formerly known as monkeypox).

Discovered in 2015 in a woman near Fairbanks, Alaska, Alaskapox primarily affects small mammals like red-backed voles and shrews. However, domestic pets such as dogs and cats may also carry the virus. Over the past nine years, seven people in Alaska have been infected with Alaskapox.

Symptoms of Alaskapox Virus include one or more skin bumps or pustules, accompanied by joint or muscle pain and swollen lymph nodes. While most cases result in mild illnesses that resolve on their own, individuals with weakened immune systems are at risk of more severe outcomes.

Health officials believe Alaskapox spreads through contact with infected animals, with no documented cases of human-to-human transmission. Nonetheless, individuals with Alaskapox lesions are advised to cover them with a bandage to prevent potential spread.

What happened in the latest case?

In the latest case, an elderly man on the Kenai Peninsula became the first known fatality attributed to Alaskapox. With a suppressed immune system due to cancer treatment, he developed symptoms including a red sore under his armpit. Despite seeking medical attention, his condition deteriorated, leading to hospitalization and eventual death.

To protect against Alaskapox and similar illnesses, it’s essential to maintain a safe distance from wildlife, wash hands thoroughly after outdoor activities, and refrain from attempting to domesticate wild animals.

While Alaskapox Virus remains a rare illness with typically mild symptoms, vigilance and precautionary measures are crucial in mitigating risks to both humans and pets. Stay informed, stay safe.

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