Alaska Dispatch (07.29.2013)
Cooper stated the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta outbreak had its origin in high TB incidence among Alaskan Natives in the 1940s and 1950s. From 1948 to1951, approximately 89 percent of Alaskan Natives in the region tested positive for TB. Cooper attributed the high TB incidence to remote geography, poor healthcare infrastructure, crowded living conditions, and the immigration of nonnatives who brought in “weakening” diseases like measles and influenza from which Alaskan Natives had no immunity. Extending healthcare to the region has helped TB rates plummet throughout the years.
However, many Alaskan Natives who were alive during the region’s period of high incidence still have latent TB, which could become active as aging weakened their immune systems. In addition, poor living conditions and lack of access to quality medical care still exist in remote areas.
In 2012, Alaska had more TB cases than any other state, with a rate of nine cases per 100,000 people. Sixty-nine percent of Alaska TB cases occurred among Alaskan Natives, and 66.6 percent of the infections occurred in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. Alaskan Natives accounted for only 15 percent of the state’s population. The decline in Alaska’s TB rates is likely to continue as the state health department identifies and treats latent cases, but the eradication of TB in Alaska is unlikely, according to Cooper.
In other states, foreign-born populations accounted for most US TB cases.