In July 2015, personnel in the Alaska Division of Public Health's Section of Epidemiology became aware of an increase in the number of patients being treated in Anchorage hospital emergency departments for adverse reactions associated with use of synthetic cannabinoids (SCs). SCs are a chemically diverse class of designer drugs that bind to the same cannabinoid receptors as tetrahydrocannabinol, the main psychoactive component of cannabis. A public health investigation was initiated to describe clinical outcomes, characterize the outbreak, and identify SC chemicals circulating in Anchorage. During July 15, 2015-March 15, 2016, a total of 1,351 ambulance transports to Anchorage emergency departments for adverse SC reactions were identified. A review of charts obtained from two Anchorage hospitals determined that among 167 emergency department visits for adverse SC reactions during July 15-September 30, 2015, 11 (6.6%) involved a patient who required endotracheal intubation, 17 (10.2%) involved a patient who was admitted to the intensive care unit, and 66 (39.5%) involved a patient classified as being homeless. Testing of 25 product and paraphernalia samples collected from patients at one hospital identified 11 different SC chemicals. Educational outreach campaigns focused on the considerable health risks of using SCs need to complement judicial and law enforcement actions to reduce SC use.
Human infection by orthopoxviruses is being reported with increasing frequency, attributed in part to the cessation of smallpox vaccination and concomitant waning of population-level immunity. In July 2015, a female resident of interior Alaska presented to an urgent care clinic with a dermal lesion consistent with poxvirus infection. Laboratory testing of a virus isolated from the lesion confirmed infection by an Orthopoxvirus.
The virus isolate was characterized by using electron microscopy and nucleic acid sequencing. An epidemiologic investigation that included patient interviews, contact tracing, and serum testing, as well as environmental and small-mammal sampling, was conducted to identify the infection source and possible additional cases.
Neither signs of active infection nor evidence of recent prior infection were observed in any of the 4 patient contacts identified. The patient's infection source was not definitively identified. Potential routes of exposure included imported fomites from Azerbaijan via the patient's cohabiting partner or wild small mammals in or around the patient's residence. Phylogenetic analyses demonstrated that the virus represents a distinct and previously undescribed genetic lineage of Orthopoxvirus, which is most closely related to the Old World orthopoxviruses.
Investigation findings point to infection of the patient after exposure in or near Fairbanks. This conclusion raises questions about the geographic origins (Old World vs North American) of the genus Orthopoxvirus. Clinicians should remain vigilant for signs of poxvirus infection and alert public health officials when cases are suspected.
During 1975-2012, CDC surveillance identified 1,680 trichinellosis cases in the United States with implicated food items; among these cases, 1,219 were attributed to consumption of raw or pork products, and 461 were attributed to nonpork products. Although trichinellosis in the United States has historically been associated with consumption of pork, multiple nonporcine species of wild game also are competent hosts for Trichinella spp. and have been collectively implicated in the majority of trichinellosis cases since the late 1990s (1-4) (Figure 1). During July 2016-May 2017, the Alaska Division of Public Health (ADPH) investigated two outbreaks of trichinellosis in the Norton Sound region associated with consumption of raw or undercooked walrus (Odobenus rosmarus) meat; five cases were identified in each of the two outbreaks. These were the first multiple-case outbreaks of walrus-associated trichinellosis in Alaska since 1992 (Figure 2). Health care providers should inquire about consumption of commercially prepared and personally harvested meats when evaluating suspected trichinellosis cases, especially in areas where consumption of wild game is commonplace.
Although loggers in Alaska are at high risk for occupational injury, no comprehensive review of such injuries has been performed since the mid-1990s. We investigated work-related injuries in the Alaska logging industry during 1991-2014.
Using data from the Alaska Trauma Registry and the Alaska Occupational Injury Surveillance System, we described fatal and nonfatal injuries by factors including worker sex and age, timing and geographic location of injuries, and four injury characteristics. Annual injury rates and associated 5-year simple moving averages were calculated.
We identified an increase in the 5-year simple moving averages of fatal injury rates beginning around 2005. While injury characteristics were largely consistent between the first 14 and most recent 10 years of the investigation, the size of logging companies declined significantly between these periods.
Factors associated with declines in the size of Alaska logging companies might have contributed to the observed increase in fatal injury rates.