First fatal case of Alaskapox virus: the origin of the infection of this new smallpox has not yet been identified

First fatal case of Alaskapox virus: the origin of the infection of this new smallpox has not yet been identified

Le virus identifié en 2015 a fait sa première victime. Illustration CDC /Unsplash

As its name suggests, this virus is currently confined to the American state of Alaska. Discovered in 2015, it has only been diagnosed seven times in patients.

This is the first fatal case of this virus in history. Orthopoxvirus, also called Alaskan smallpox. initially infected a woman in Alaska in the United States in 2015. Seven cases in total were recorded, including the first fatality at the end of January. 

The area where the virus spreads is currently located only in this American state. Its name comes from the contraction between "Alaska", the place where it was discovered and where it occurs , and "chickenpox" which means chickenpox in English. It is an orthopoxvirus.

Spread zone

Since 2015, seven cases  Alaskapox viruses have been reported in Alaska, including five in people living in the Fairbanks North Star Borough and two living in the Kenai Peninsula Borough. Including the man who died at the end of January, as reported by the Alaska Health Department.

The man was immunocompromised which may explain why this infection led to complications and why he did not survive.

For now, the health authorities want to be reassuring about this virus and its dangerousness.

Risks linked to this virus

This virus is still monitored. The Val-de-Grâce Armed Forces Biomedical Research Institute established in 2019, two types of risks linked to this virus: the return of smallpox and the appearance of several viruses of this type which could occur in the absence of smallpox vaccination.

Three new types of orthopoxvirushave already been discovered ten years ago.  

Transmission still unknown

This virus is believed to be transmitted by small mammals that live in Alaska. But this type of transmission is still uncertain. The virus has been most commonly identified in voles and red-backed shrews, but it may be ;either widespread in populations of small mammals.

To date, no human-to-human transmission of Alaskapox virus has been recorded.

Unusual symptoms

People infected with Alaskapox have one or more skin lesions such as bumps or pustules.

They may also have swelling in the lymph nodes and experience joint and muscle pain. 


Health authorities recommend that Alaska residents take care of their pets and not have contact with wild animals, especially small mammals.< /p>

Even though no human-to-human transmission has yet been documented, it is best not to come into direct contact with a skin lesion of an infected person.

Clearly, it is recommended to place a dressing on the wound if you think you have contracted this disease.  Indeed, certain other orthopoxviruses can be transmitted in this way. 

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