Background: Foodborne botulism resulting from consumption of uncooked aquatic game foods has been an endemic hazard among Alaska Native populations for centuries. Our review was conducted to help target botulism prevention and response activities.
Methods: Records of Alaska botulism investigations for the period 1947-2007 were reviewed. We used the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention case definitions for foodborne botulism and linear regression to evaluate incidence trends and χ(2) or Fisher's Exact tests to evaluate categorical data.
Results: A total of 317 patients (61% of whom were female) and 159 outbreaks were reported. Overall mean annual incidence was 6.9 cases per 100,000 Alaska Native persons; mean incidence was lower in 2000 (5.7 cases per 100,000 Alaska Native persons) than in any period since 1965-1969 (0.8 cases per 100,000 Alaska Native persons). Age-specific incidence was highest (26.6 cases per 100,000 Alaska Native persons) among persons aged ≥60 years. The overall case-fatality rate was 8.2%, and the case-fatality rate was ≤4.0% since 1980. Misdiagnosis was associated with a higher case-fatality rate and delayed antitoxin administration.
Conclusions: Foodborne botulism remains a public health problem in Alaska. Incidence might be decreasing, but it remains >800 times the overall US rate (0.0068 cases per 100,000 persons). Prevention messages should highlight the additional risk to female individuals and older persons. Early diagnosis is critical for timely access to antitoxin and supportive care.