Monday, June 15, 2009

Swine flu hitting Inuit communities hard

From Indian Country Today:

(World Health Organization) briefed reporters June 9 that reports to the agency of infections in Inuit communities in Canada showed “disproportionate numbers of serious cases occurring,” said WHO senior official Keiji Fukuda.

In general, I've been confused by all the attention the H1N1 virus has gotten. When compared to the "regular" flu each year, this seems to be, well, frankly much better. I'm far from a medical... anything, though, so I'll just keep my mouth shut and wash my hands a lot. Try not to shout down people who know better than me anyways, but also try not to add to what I was seeing as a minor hysteria over something that seems to be... well, just like the flu. Any death is too much, but what if we attacked the "regular" flu with as much media attention and assistance?

But this is the first I've heard of it hitting a Native community disproportionately higher - and by a wide margin. I don't know how much everyone else knows about the history of flu and the Alaska Native communities (really ANY Native community) but it's pretty bad. There have been several epidemics which have nearly wiped out whole villages, 90% of the population in some cases.

At the turn of the century there were a few outbreaks - some call it "The Great Death." These flus, also, were disproportionately higher in Native communities by a wide, wide margin. While many tried to stop it, many clergy used it to prove that Native ways were evil, and Western ways were good. All you had to do was look at who was dying, and see the "truth" in that. For Alaska Native people, these outbreaks were a major turning point for entire cultures, entire ways of life. I could give mountains of posts on this, but suffice it to say that the last time the flu was a big problem for the world, it devastated Native cultures in Alaska.

For some reason, I assumed that any sort of flu outbreak wouldn't hit these populations as hard this time around. Modern medicine and all, right? But I'd be lying if this didn't pinch something in the pit of my stomach. I'm not ready to ring the alarm quite yet, but my country for a degree in medicine! I hope that those officials they mention as saying not to assume there are "genetic, environmental or underlying diseases" to blame for it are, you know, making sure there are no genetic, environmental or underlying diseases to blame for it.

Well, I suppose, in this, I may be adding to what could amount to the latest trend in hysteria, but I just want to make sure there's at least one guy up there checking this out. Anyone?

3 comments:

ykalaska said...

The rapid increase in cases is frightening, http://www.tumblr.com/tumblelog/hlthenvt/search/nunavut

Other curiosity is how the infection got there. I always figured the Kuskokwim would get bird flu via Ted Stevens airport. The populations are small meaning too small by themselves to sustain an ongoing intense respiratory infection (no new people to infect so the virus dies out rather than staying in circulation).

Some folks do examine the environmental variables (housing tends to be small and crowded and folks stay indoors together).

But another issue that needs considering, but few have-- body shape. Influenza is a respiratory illness, as are many other Ear-nose-lung viruses which seem to still have higher rates of infections in these same high-latitude populations. [look at middle ear infections, for example] I'd like to see someone look at the epidemiology and developmental anthropometry of populations such as Maori, Eskimo/Inuit, northern European, east African...

Once a novel influenza epidemic gets going, it's the the economic differences between communities which will instead be significant, insofar as self-reliance and preparedness planning have economic factors. [biological factors such as age don't disappear but should be part of the planning/preparedness]

Several Alaska communities *were successful*, when they were consistent in their actions, against the 1919 flu and against the later ones in the 60s. Some people still remember how that was done, but little of Alaska Native successes have been documented. Some factors to consider were the skills distributed amongst the age groups in a village (someone has to know how *and* be capable of nursing others.) I'd like to know how those chosen for the armed militias were known to have the wisdom for that responsibility.

There isn't much difference between preparing for environmental catastrophes (such as break-up or autumn storm surges) and preparing for infectious catastrophe.

An influenza pandemic in the Unorganized Borough has been downplayed by the state, feds, and tribal consortia since 2006, when I started tracking it. Has any Alaska community discussed its plans to isolate itself? against the return of family members (c.f., Wales in 1919)? Where are the health corps's and state's mass disease shelters in each community (for which they have already issued "passes" to those who get seasonal flu vaccinations)? For example, for bird flu, H5N1, some public health planning has been relying upon getting tamiflu. Alaska is allotted not even enough Tamiflu for Anchorage.

How many communities can sustain a 6 weeks or longer absence of the postal service (food)?

Speaking of the airport, who of the rural policing force will be stationed at the airport to keep order (coming in or going out)? Who will greet us at the airport in Anchorage, with or without bated breath?

It isn't enough to wait to be told what to do.

More historical resources, Mr Peter Nick of Russian Mission

Anonymous said...

Alaska Multi Agency
Coordination Agency
Unified Command

"Unified Command Established to Respond to h1n1 and River Flooding

They, as in Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and the dept of health and social services have established a unified command .

The dhss is in charge of distribution of h1n1 influenza anti-viral medications and to test suspected samples. Since their are No probable or confirmed cases in the State, yet they stand ready with 100,000 courses of anti-viral medication.


And the dmva is in charge of the River Watch Branch and is monitoring river conditions and has sent teams to the rivers. The Yukon River Team is assisting the city of Eagle with severe flooding and the Kuskokwim Team are monitoring in Akiak.

Amanda said...

People with regular exposure to pigs are at increased risk of swine flu. More than 1100 people worldwide have died from swine flu since it emerged in Mexico and the US in April, according to the latest figures from the World.