Elderly man is first ever recorded death from virus

The Alaska Department of Health also warned that domestic pets such as cats and dogs “may also play a role in spreading the virus.” 

Dr Stathis Giotis, a Research Fellow at the Department of Infectious Disease at Imperial College London and lecturer of Molecular Virology at the University of Essex, said scientists had yet to establish the pathogen’s main route of transmission.

“Although we know the virus spreads in small rodents, such as voles and shrews, some patients in the past have suggested they were bitten by spiders, cats, or dogs. We don’t really know how it is spread at this point,” he said.

“There is no reason to be alarmed, however. It is always good to be better informed about our interactions with wildlife. Washing our hands carefully with soap or alcohol-based products helps to protect against viruses, as well as recognising the signs of infection.” 

Although first discovered nearly 10 years ago, Alaskapox may have been circulating for a “long time before that” due to its mild nature, added Dr Giotis, meaning most infections would have flown under the radar.

Alaskapox is a species of the Orthopoxvirus genus. Other members of this family that can infect humans include cowpox, smallpox, and mpox.

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