Lack of indoor plumbing contributes to pneumonia strain in Alaska villages

The Anchorage Daily NewsApril 12, 2010 

A new Centers for Disease Control study shows a strong link between a lack of indoor plumbing and high rates of potentially life-threatening diseases such as pneumonia and meningitis among children in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta.

"In villages where there was no in-home running water, the rates for disease were about three times higher than they were than in other villages," said Dr. Jay Wenger, lead author of the study.

About 40 percent of households in the region lack water service, which could make it more difficult for people to wash their hands and prevent the spread of bacteria, said Dr. Rosalyn Singleton, immunization program director for the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and a contributor to the report.

The region is home to some of the poorest, most crowded households in the state, the study says. The report found Alaska Native children younger than 5 years old in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region are five to 10 times more likely to suffer from a bacterial illness called Invasive Pneumococcal Disease than other Alaska kids.

The disease can lead to a serious form of pneumonia -- a lung infection that makes up the majority of Yukon-Kuskokwim cases -- as well as meningitis and blood infections, Singleton said.

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