2nd known case of 'Alaskapox virus' identified

Alaska reported its second case of a viral infection caused by a novel orthopoxvirus this summer.

Orthopoxviruses infect a variety of animals, including cattle, cats and rodents. But the virus discovered in Alaska in 2015 is not closely related to other known orthopoxviruses. The new virus lineage may represent a new species of orthopoxvirus, which virologists have named "Alaskapox virus," according to an alert by the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

In 2015, a woman in the Fairbanks area developed a small ulceration with a whitish border on her right shoulder surrounded by red skin. She also experienced fever and fatigue. Physicians found that the lesion was caused by a new orthopoxvirus. The patient recovered, and the lesion disappeared in six months.

In August, another woman, who also lived in the Fairbanks area, began having similar symptoms and a small gray lesion appeared on her left upper arm, followed by skin redness. She tested positive for the orthopoxvirus from the same lineage identified in 2015. The patient recovered, and the lesion had substantially healed in about six weeks.

So far, there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission, and the animal-to-human transmission route is unclear.

"It is reassuring that both known infections caused self-limiting illness. However, much remains unknown about the epidemiology and pathology of Alaskapox virus," the alert states.

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