Coronavirus hurting Alaska attempt to reduce tuberculosis

In Anchorage last week there were 15 cases of active tuberculosis and more than 300 cases of active COVID-19. (Rajesh Kumar Singh/Associated Press)
Alaska is on track to repeat last year’s mark of the U.S.’s highest rate of tuberculosis infections, health officials said.

There have been 38 reported cases of tuberculosis in the state so far this year, The Anchorage Daily News reported.

A federal report released in March said Alaska had 58 documented cases of the disease in 2019.

COVID-19 has complicated the mission of eradicating tuberculosis in Alaska by reducing the public health resources that can be dedicated to fighting the illness caused by bacteria that attack the lungs, health officials said.

“Our public health nurses are really the front line workers in the fight against TB. And they’re obviously being pulled in many different directions right now, which makes it more challenging for them to do all the work they need to do.” Dr. Michelle Rothoff, Alaska Division of Public Health medical epidemiologist
Tuberculosis patients can go decades without symptoms

In Anchorage last week there were 15 cases of active tuberculosis and more than 300 cases of active COVID-19.

The World Health Organization reported about 1.8 billion people are infected with tuberculosis, which kills more than a million people every year.

The majority of people with tuberculosis have its latent form and can go decades without symptoms, which is among the reasons “we continue to kind of have this smouldering epidemic in parts of our state,” Rothoff said.

Most of Alaska’s tuberculosis infections are concentrated in the Southwest and the Northern regions of the state, Rothoff said.

Rothoff hopes Alaska residents remain aware of tuberculosis threats, “even during this time when everybody has COVID on the brain,” she said.

For most people, the coronavirus causes mild or moderate symptoms, such as fever and cough that clear up in two to three weeks. But for some — especially older adults and people with existing health problems — it can cause more severe illness, including pneumonia and death.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Big uptake of COVID-19 emergency benefit program in Northern Canada’s territories, CBC News

Denmark: Faroe Islands prolongs free COVID-19 testing for travellers until July 31, Eye on the Arctic

Finland: Russian tourists eager to book holidays in Finland despite border closure, Yle News

Greenland: Greenland extends COVID-19 entry requirements until July 20, Eye on the Arctic

Iceland: Iceland revises COVID-19 border screening rules for citizens, residents, Eye on the Arctic

Norway: Norwegian Arctic wilderness tourism hit particularly hard by coronavirus, The Independent Barents Observer

Russia: The city that builds Russia’s nuclear submarines now has more than 2,000 COVID-19 cases, The Independent Barents Observer

Sweden: Sweden’s top epidemiologist admits he got COVID-19 strategy wrong, Radio Sweden

United States: Alaska Highway travellers might be in for rough ride this summer, CBC News

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