Close this search box.
True Self Care Logo

Alaskapox: What You Need to Know About the New Virus

Alaskapox is a new virus that has recently emerged in Alaska, causing skin lesions and other symptoms in a few people. It belongs to the family of orthopoxviruses, which are related to smallpox, cowpox and mpox. Although most cases have been mild, one person with a weakened immune system died from the infection in January 2024. Here are some frequently asked questions and answers about Alaskapox, based on the current scientific knowledge and official reports.

What is Alaskapox and how was it discovered?

Alaskapox is a novel species of orthopoxvirus, a group of viruses that can infect mammals and cause skin lesions, or pox. Orthopoxviruses have a brick-shaped appearance under the microscope and a large DNA genome that encodes many proteins. Some of the most well-known orthopoxviruses are variola virus, which causes smallpox, and vaccinia virus, which is used as a vaccine against smallpox.

Alaskapox was first discovered in 2015, when a woman from Fairbanks, Alaska, visited a clinic with lesions that were confirmed to contain an orthopoxvirus, but did not match any known members of the genus. Subsequent genetic analysis established that the woman had been infected with a new orthopoxvirus, which was named Alaskapox virus (AKPV) after its geographic origin. The woman recovered from the infection, and the source of the virus remained unknown.

How many cases of Alaskapox have been reported and where?

As of February 2024, there have been seven reported cases of Alaskapox infection in humans, all in Alaska. The first six cases occurred in Fairbanks North Star Borough, and the seventh case occurred in Kenai Peninsula Borough. The seventh case was also the first fatal case, as the patient was an elderly man with an immunocompromising condition who died from kidney failure after being diagnosed with AKPV. The other six cases were mild and did not require hospitalization.

What are the symptoms of Alaskapox and how is it diagnosed?

The main symptom of Alaskapox is a small lesion on the skin that heals after a few weeks or months. The lesion may be accompanied by swelling of the lymph nodes, joint or muscle pain, and fever. The lesion may be mistaken for a spider or insect bite, or a bacterial infection. The diagnosis of Alaskapox is confirmed by laboratory tests that detect the presence of the virus or its genetic material in the lesion or blood samples. The tests may include polymerase chain reaction (PCR), virus isolation, or sequencing.

How is Alaskapox transmitted and how can it be prevented?

The transmission of Alaskapox to humans is hypothesized to be via small animals, such as rodents or cats, that may carry the virus in their saliva or blood. However, the exact mode of transmission and the natural reservoir of the virus are not yet clear. There is no evidence of human-to-human transmission of Alaskapox so far.

The prevention of Alaskapox depends on avoiding contact with potentially infected animals or their fluids. People who live in or visit areas where Alaskapox cases have been reported should take precautions such as wearing gloves and long sleeves when handling animals, washing hands and wounds thoroughly, and seeking medical attention if they develop a lesion or other symptoms. There is no specific treatment or vaccine for Alaskapox, but supportive care and antiviral drugs may be helpful in some cases.

Is Alaskapox a serious threat to public health?

Alaskapox is a new virus that poses some challenges for public health authorities and researchers. The virus is not well-characterized and its origin, evolution, and ecology are still unknown. The virus may have the potential to cause more severe disease or spread to other regions or species. The virus may also pose a risk for people who have weakened immune systems or other underlying conditions that make them more vulnerable to infections.

However, Alaskapox is not a major threat to public health at the moment. The virus has caused only a few cases of mild illness in humans, except for one fatal case in a person with a compromised immune system. The virus does not seem to transmit easily among humans or animals, and the risk of exposure is low for most people. The virus is also closely monitored by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, which are conducting surveillance, investigation, and research activities to better understand and control the virus.

Where can I find more information about Alaskapox?

If you want to learn more about Alaskapox, you can visit the following websites:

  • Alaska Department of Health and Social Services: This website provides updates, alerts, and guidance on Alaskapox and other infectious diseases in Alaska.
  • Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: This website provides information, resources, and recommendations on Alaskapox and other orthopoxviruses in the United States and worldwide.
  • The Conversation: This website features an article by a microbiologist who explains the recently discovered virus that just claimed its first fatality.
  • PBS NewsHour: This website features a video and a transcript of a report on Alaskapox and its implications for public health.

In This Post:

Editor`s Pick:
Stay In Touch

Never miss an important update. Be the first to receive our exclusive beauty tips straight into your inbox.