Infectious disease cases drop in state

Posted: Sunday, August 10, 2008

ANCHORAGE - Cases of infectious diseases are dropping in Alaska, with some exceptions, according to a state health report.

The report by the state Department of Health and Social Services found that cases of sexually transmitted disease mostly fell last year in Alaska. It was led by a 35 percent decline in new AIDS cases. There were 46 new cases of AIDS in 2006 and 30 new cases in 2007.

Also down were new HIV infections, a 31 percent decline, from 88 cases in 2006 to 61 cases last year.

However, in both cases the change mostly reflects a statistical spike in 2006, when state health officials adopted new methods that allowed them to identify previously unreported HIV and AIDS cases, and a return to normal in 2007, according to Mollie Rozier, director of the state's HIV/STD program.

The report says new cases of gonorrhea and syphilis also declined. Chlamydia infections, however, rose by 8 percent.

Last year saw Alaska partly recover from a 2006 tuberculosis outbreak, which resulted in 70 TB cases statewide, mostly in the Anchorage area. There were only 51 TB cases statewide in 2007.

The report said there was an increase in food-borne infections, including botulism. There were 10 cases reported in Alaska in 2007. All but one of the botulism cases occurred in Southwest Alaska, according to the state epidemiology section.

Each case was traced to traditionally prepared Alaska Native foods, including specific problems with fermented beluga, fermented beaver tail, fermented seal flipper, seal blubber, whale blubber and fermented fish heads. One person died from botulism.

Reports of animal rabies continued to increase, from an average of eight cases a year from 2003-2005, to 18 cases in 2006 to 45 cases in 2007. All but one of the rabies cases last year occurred in coastal regions of northern and southwestern Alaska. Infected animals included 24 red foxes, 17 arctic wolves, three dogs and one wolf.

Rabies cases involving Alaska wildlife generally cycle up and down, depending on the rise and fall of wildlife populations, the report noted.

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