The arctic form of Trichinella spiralis that infects terrestrial and marine mammals is of importance in public health because persons living in arctic regions still depend on wild animals for economic subsistence. In 1975, an extended common-source epidemic of trichinosis attributed to consumption of walrus meat involved 29 persons in Barrow, Alaska. Of those persons eating this meat, 64% became ill, and the rate of infection of persons eating meat prepared with little or no cooking was four times as great as that of persons eating cooked meat. One year later a second outbreak occurred when a family ate partially cooked meat from an infected walrus. Clinical illness differed little from the disease acquired in temperature climates; however, only 70% had a positive bentonite flocculation titer, whereas 96% had eosinophilia. These epidemics of trichinosis are the first reported in Alaska to be associated with the consumption of walrus meat.
From: Fortuine, Robert et al. 1993. The Health of the Inuit of North America: A Bibliography from the Earliest Times through 1990. University of Alaska Anchorage. Citation number 2110.
Average annual, age-adjusted death rates from cardiovascular diseases and atherosclerosis from 1980-86 among Alaskan Natives were lower than rates among other Alaskans (162.0 vs 242.1; RR = 0.67), while death rates from other causes were higher (954.4 vs 618.6; RR = 1.54). These suggest that Alaskan Natives have less cardiovascular disease than other populations. Additional research on the role of marine omega-3 fatty acids is needed.
OBJECTIVES: The prevalence and characteristics of fetal alcohol syndrome cases and the usefulness of various data sources in surveillance were examined in Alaska to guide prevention and future surveillance efforts. METHODS: Sixteen data sources in Alaska were used to identify children with fetal alcohol syndrome. Medical charts were reviewed to verify cases, and records were reviewed to provide descriptive data. RESULTS: Fetal alcohol syndrome rates varied markedly by birth year and race, with the highest prevalence (4.1 per 1000 live births) found among Alaska Natives born between 1985 and 1988. Screening and referral programs to diagnostic clinics identified 70% of all recorded cases. The intervention program for children 0 to 3 years of age detected 29% of age-appropriate cases, and Medicaid data identified 11% of all cases; birth certificates detected only 9% of the age-appropriate cases. CONCLUSIONS: Our findings indicate a high prevalence of fetal alcohol syndrome in Alaska and illustrate that reliance on any one data source would lead to underestimates of the extent of fetal alcohol syndrome in a population.
National fish consumption advisories that are based solely on assessment of risk of exposure to contaminants without consideration of consumption benefits result in overly restrictive advice that discourages eating fish even in areas where such advice is unwarranted. In fact, generic fish advisories may have adverse public health consequences because of decreased fish consumption and substitution of foods that are less healthy. Public health is on the threshold of a new era for determining actual exposures to environmental contaminants, owing to technological advances in analytical chemistry. It is now possible to target fish consumption advice to specific at-risk populations by evaluating individual contaminant exposures and health risk factors. Because of the current epidemic of nutritionally linked disease, such as obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease, general recommendations for limiting fish consumption are ill conceived and potentially dangerous.
Comment In: American Journal of Public Health. 2005 Aug;95(8):1304; author reply 1304-1305
A manual review of death certificates and autopsy records identified 195 suicides in Alaska during 1983-84. Native males, 20-24 years old, had the highest rate of suicide (257 per 100,000 person-years). Gunshot wounds caused 76 per cent of all suicide deaths; 79 per cent of Native and 48 per cent of White suicides had detectable levels of blood alcohol. Suicide by firearms was weakly associated with blood alcohol levels above 100 mg/dl (odds ratio 1.3, 95 per cent confidence interval 1.11-1.47).