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Alaska confirms first fatal case of Alaskapox

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Alaska confirms first fatal case of Alaskapox


Alaska health officials confirmed the state’s first fatal case of Alaskapox — a recently discovered viral disease.

An elderly immunocompromised man from the Kenai peninsula, south of Anchorage, died while undergoing treatment in late January, the Anchorage Daily News reported. 

He is one of only seven reported Alaskapox infections, the Alaska Department of Public Health said in an announcement on Friday.

“People should not necessarily be concerned but more aware,” said Julia Rogers, a state epidemiologist. “So we’re hoping to make clinicians more aware of what Alaskapox virus is, so that they can identify signs and symptoms.”

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The double-stranded-DNA virus, which comes from the same genus as smallpox, monkeypox and cowpox, was first identified in an adult in Fairbanks, Alaska in 2015. It is most common in small mammals, like voles shrews.

The fatal case, the first identified outside of Alaska’s interior, took months to diagnose, as Alaskapox cases had previously only shown mild symptoms in patients — typically a localized rash and swollen lymph nodes.

An Alaskapox lesion about 10 days after symptom onset. Alaska Department of Health
The disease is typically a localized rash and swollen lymph nodes. Alaska Department of Health
The double-stranded-DNA virus, which comes from the same genus as smallpox, monkeypox and cowpox, was first identified in an adult in Fairbanks, Alaska in 2015. Alaska Department of Health

Other patients who had been diagnosed with the virus did not require treatment, but they all had healthy immune systems, health officials said.

Officials said the man’s immunocompromised condition likely contributed to his death. How he contracted the virus remains unclear.

The man lived alone in the woods and reported no recent travel. Officials said its possible that he could have gotten Alaskapox from a cat he lived with who frequently hunted small mammals and scratched him when his symptoms started.

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The cat tested negative for the virus — but it could have spread from its claws.

In September, the man noticed a red bump in his right armpit and was prescribed antibiotics. But six weeks later, his symptoms only grew and included fatigue and pain.

Alaskapox is most common in small mammals, like voles shrews, including the Northern Red-Backed Vole. Alaska Department of Health
Symptoms of Alaskapox have included one or more skin lesions (bumps or pustules) and other symptoms like swollen lymph nodes and joint and/or muscle pain. Alaska Department of Health

He was hospitalized in Anchorage and underwent a “battery of tests” in December and tested positive for cowpox. Additional testing by the Centers for Disease Control revealed it was actually Alaskapox.

His condition initially improved a week after intravenous medications, but he died in late January after experiencing kidney and respiratory failure, health officials said.

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Alaska

Alaska's Black History: JP Jones

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Alaska's Black History: JP Jones


J. P. Jones was a Fairbanks activist and businessman. The labor union brought him to Fairbanks in 1951, and he worked construction projects throughout the Fairbanks area, including the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Eielson Air Force Base. He married Geneva Talton in 1956. In the 1960s and 70s, he ventured into entrepreneurship, starting a convenience store, rental properties, the Jones Ice Factory, and a motel. He sometimes experienced racial injustice. He was determined to help others avoid these obstacles so became involved in the Greater Fairbanks Branch of the N.A.A.C.P.

In a recent presentation on Fairbanks Black History, professor Dorothy Jones, who is not related, remembered Jones as a formidable personality.

There was an interview done with J.P.’s daughter Gigi about her dad,  so Gigi said the P in his name stood for Persistent  Persevered and Pro-willed.  And Gigi remembers that her father was very outspoken to a point of intimidation. I agree.  Either you like him. Or you did not,  for his firm belief that no matter who you are, everyone should be treated fairly and have opportunities.”

He received many awards and honors during his presidency of the N.A.A.C.P. However, he was most proud to learn of the dedication and the re-naming of the Southside Community Center to the J.P. Jones Community Development Center in Fairbanks, on October 26, 2002.

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Jones died less than a month later, at the age of 90.
“He was a good man, very strong in believing that everyone entitled, everyone is entitled to get what they deserve. People of color, women, whatever.

He had a strong voice. Maybe not always articulate,  but he commanded respect.  JP was a laborer, it was in the labor union and construction work. Brought him to Fairbanks in 19 fifty-one. In the late sixties and seventies, he ventured out on his own into entrepreneurship.  He worked on numerous construction projects throughout the Fairbanks area, including the University of Alaska, Fairbanks, also an Air force base, and after retiring from construction, he owned convenient, a convenience store, residential property, and Jones Ice Factory, which his daughter, Gigi, owned for a period of time In 19 sixty-eight.

 

J.P completed financial agreements to complete his hotel motel unit with thirty-six rooms, cocktail lounge, and coffee shop. Mr. Jones opened his motel and when completed, it cost $400,000.  His commitment and dedication to the cause of racial harmony led him to become involved in the NAACP  in the seventies and 80,  and his family overcame many obstacles including death threats, and a stick of dynamite. It was found under their doorsteps.  There were people that didn’t appreciate what he was trying to do for himself and for others.  When Mr. Jones had his own business, our own family, he made sure that his kids never were without.  The Community Center formerly called the Fairbanks Southside Center was renamed after J.P Jones.

Before he died  the day he must to be honored for NAACP involvement. Mr. Jones was born in March of 1912 in Houston, Texas, and he died at the age of 90.  J.P. Jones passed peacefully from this life at his home on November 2, 2002.  He was 90 years old.” 

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James P. Jones was born to William and Rosetta Jones on March 21, 1912 in Houston, Texas. He was the youngest of six children, three brothers and two sisters. He graduated from Jack Yates High School in Houston, Texas. As a young man, he had an adventurous spirit and enjoyed traveling. He made his way to Los Angeles, California, where he worked several jobs and found construction to be his career choice. It was in Los Angeles that he met the love of his life, Geneva Talton. His love of adventure and new construction opportunities in the last frontier brough him to Fairbanks , Alaska in 1951. Geneva soon followed and they were married on August 18, 1956. To this union, two children were born, Jerald William Jones and Genice Gradelle Jones.

 

“J.P., as he was known by all, worked for C&R Construction, P.K. Construction, and Laborers Local 942. He worked on numerous construction projects throughout the Fairbanks area to include the University of Alaska Fairbanks and Eielson AFB. After retiring from construction in the early 70’s, J.P. went into business for himself where he experienced obstacles and racial injustices. He was determined to help others avoid the obstacles he experienced and became involved in the N.A.A.C.P.

His commitment and dedication to the cause of racial harmony led him to hold the position of president of the local chapter of the N.A.A.C.P. for many years. Despite many threats of danger to himself and his family, J.P. persevered and was steadfast in his commitment to help others. J.P. was a civil rights activist and a strong community supporter, who was persistent in working towards the cause of ensuring racial and economic equality for all. J.P.’s name was synonymous with the organization and he was known as “Mr. N.A.A.C.P.”

 

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J.P. accepted Christ at an early age, and upon arrival in Fairbanks, he joined St. John Baptist Church. Although his attendance was rare in his later years, he was a strong believer in Christ and often attributed his longevity to following the scripture, “Honour thy father and thy mother: that thy days may be long upon the land which the Lord thy God giveth thee.” – Exodus 20:12 He found great comfort and joy in television evangelism. You could walk into his store on any given day and find him reveling in the television ministries. (If he was not engaged in a quick nap.)

 

He was able to see many of the fruits of his labor, including the re-naming of the Center which highlights his many accomplishments.





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Iditarod returns to 16-dog teams

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Iditarod returns to 16-dog teams



Sled dogs at the ceremonial start of the 2018 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, the last time teams were allowed to have 16 dogs each. (Alaska Public Media/KNOM photo)

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race will once again allow up to 16 dogs per team in the thousand-mile race to Nome.

Race officials made the announcement in a media briefing Wednesday in Anchorage, where the race kicks off with a ceremonial start Saturday.

The Iditarod had set the limit at 14 dogs per team just five years ago after considering the expense of flying dogs back from the trail and to make it easier for smaller kennels to race in the Iditarod.

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The thought at the time was also that it would be easier for each musher to take care of two fewer dogs, said longtime Iditarod Race Director Mark Nordman.

“Yeah, definitely, there was some talk that, you know, with 14, people can control them a little better,” Nordman said. “But really, and it’s always in the figures of how many dogs were dropped, the percentages just didn’t change.”

In the early days, Nordman said, the Iditarod didn’t have a limit on the number of dogs in each team. Then the limit was 20 for a number of years until the more modern era, when it first went to 16, he said.

The decision to return to allowing 16 dogs per team came after a vote in Nome among 2023 Iditarod finishers that showed their support, Nordman said. The Iditarod’s Rules Committee took up the proposal and approved it, as did the Iditarod Trail Committee, which finalized the decision, he said.

Meantime, Iditarod teams competing in this year’s race are expecting bare ground on a section of trail north of the Alaska Range called the Farewell Burn, despite record-breaking snow in Southcentral Alaska this winter.

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That’s mostly a concern for the mushers and their sleds, not so much for the dogs, Nordman said.

“Their footing is great. It’s, ‘Hey, it’s summertime, let’s go for a run!’ and so they take off,” he said. “The dogs are fine. I don’t worry about the dogs going across there. It’s the mushers that can get flipped and turned and have to be very awake.”

Nordman attributed the lack of snow in some sections to high winds and mid-winter warm-ups, but he said the rest of the trail is looking great until the teams reach the Bering Sea coast, where storms have broken up sea ice. He said the trail might need to be rerouted to go overland near Elim.

The 2024 Iditarod begins with the ceremonial start in Anchorage on Saturday and the restart in Willow on Sunday, when the race clock begins ticking. A winner is expected in Nome early the week of March 10.


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Casey Grove is host of Alaska News Nightly, a general assignment reporter and an editor at Alaska Public Media. Reach him at cgrove@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Casey here

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Southcentral, Southwest Alaska to see deep subzero wind chills through the weekend

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Southcentral, Southwest Alaska to see deep subzero wind chills through the weekend



Snow blows across the Parks Highway near the Glenn-Parks highway interchange at 8:45 a.m. on Wednesday, Feb. 28, 2024 in a state road camera image. (From Alaska DOTPF)

A weather system bringing Arctic air to Southcentral and Southwest Alaska has meteorologists warning of subzero temperatures, along with wind gusts that could bring wind chill to 50 degrees below zero in some areas.

The National Weather Service’s Anchorage office posted an overview of the conditions Tuesday afternoon, saying the worst wind chills were likely in low-lying areas like mountain passes.

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Anchorage-based NWS meteorologist Michael Kutz said Wednesday morning that the cold snap was being produced by two weather systems bracketing the state to the east and west.

“What we have is a broad area of low pressure that’s over on the Canadian border, and an area of high pressure that’s out to our west,” he said. “And it is straight-funneling cold air down from the Arctic, all the way down into both Southcentral and Southwestern Alaska.”

While temperatures in Anchorage are expected to drop to the single digits, with parts of East Anchorage falling below zero, Kutz said winds accompanying the cold snap will make them feel much colder – as low as 40 degrees below zero in Southcentral Alaska and 50 below in inland Southwest areas, according to the weather service.

“You combine that with the advent of the light winds, generally around 10 miles per hour, and your wind chills drop down rather quickly,” he said.

The bitter-cold conditions will require people to don winter coats and cover exposed skin, which can quickly suffer frostbite as temperatures near 20 below.

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“Exposed skin freezes within about five minutes,” Kutz said. “And that’s when you start getting damaged and go into frostbite mode, where you can possibly lose body parts.”

Kutz urged homeless people across the region, who have suffered hypothermia and frostbite cases during a winter marked by plummeting temperatures and major snow dumps, to seek warming shelters. Anchorage has recently ramped down to one such shelter on 56th Avenue from three, as their use declined following a January chill.

The deep cold descends again during Anchorage’s Fur Rendezvous, as the city ramps up for the start of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race. Temperatures are forecast to drop down to a low of 11 below Friday night and then crawl back to a high of 12 degrees on Saturday morning as the dog sled teams parade through the city.

The cold snap should let up starting Sunday, Kutz said, giving way to Southcentral snow early next week from a system currently moving up the Aleutian chain.


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Chris Klint is a web producer and breaking news reporter at Alaska Public Media. Reach him at cklint@alaskapublic.org. Read more about Chris here.

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