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A medical miracle.



Those who live in Alaska's large cities, might not be familiar with a land plagued by rabid dogs, bottle rot and honey buckets. But in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, a harsh and isolated world located in western Alaska, these flings are common. Sometimes people there need a little help. Sometimes they get it.

Mix remote Alaskan communities with medical needs greater than the resources usually available, and a military in need of training in harsh and remote environments, and what do you get?

Arctic Care.

For several weeks each year, a medical, logistic and readiness training exercise takes place in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta region of western Alaska. The joint medical military operation involves both active and reserve components of the Marines, Navy, Air Force and Army, as well as the National Guard.

This year, nearly 200 medical personnel spent two weeks administering free immunizations, school physicals, dental care, well-baby clinics, vision checks, and emergency services emergency services Emergency care '…services …necessary to prevent death or serious impairment of health and, because of the danger to life or health, require the use of the most accessible hospital available and equipped to furnish those services'  to the citizens of Bethel and 10 surrounding villages. The medical teams worked in conjunction with the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation and Public Health Service to augment medical care already available. Under normal circumstances, villagers visit clinics, staffed by health aides.

"We serve 24,000 people out on the Delta and about 20,000 are in reach of getting to Arctic Care in one means or another," said Dr. Joseph Klejka, medical director of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation. "That is what we really try for - to blanket the Delta. We have a good medical system in place. But we just don't have all the resources we would like to have."

After an initial two-year operation in the Kotzebue region of Northwest Alaska, Arctic Care has provided services to the Delta for last two years. Formally invited into the villages by the tribal governments, the armed forces medical personnel during this year's exercise dealt with gunshots wounds, children going into respiratory distress Respiratory distress
A condition in which patients with lung disease are not able to get enough oxygen.

Mentioned in: Lung Cancer, Non-Small Cell
, seizures, heart attacks, acute fractures and drug overdoses.

"The types of diseases we see here are certainly different than the Lower 48: the severe hypothermia hypothermia

Abnormally low body temperature, with slowing of physiological activity. It is artificially induced (usually with ice baths) for certain surgical procedures and cancer treatments.
, the extreme amount of RSV RSV respiratory syncytial virus; Rous sarcoma virus.

RSV
abbr.
respiratory syncytial virus


RSV 1 Respiratory syncytial virus, see there 2 Rous sarcoma virus, see there
 (respiratory syncytial virus respiratory syncytial virus (sĭnsĭsh`əl): see cold, common. ) and the TB incidences," said Mary Ann Schaffer, patient care service administrator of the health corporation.

Because of poor sanitary conditions, inadequate water and sewer systems, changes in diet, and home environments, the rate of dental decay in the villages is 3 or 4 times the national average. The incidence of early childhood cavities or baby bottle tooth decay baby bottle tooth decay,
n a dental condition that occurs in children from 1 to 3 years of age as a result of being given a bottle at bedtime, resulting in prolonged exposure of the teeth to milk, formula, or juice with a high sugar content.
 is extremely high. Because of that, each military village team - which consisted of a general practitioner general practitioner
n. Abbr. GP
A physician whose practice consists of providing ongoing care covering a variety of medical problems in patients of all ages, often including referral to appropriate specialists.
 or family practice doctor, a nurse practitioner nurse practitioner
n. Abbr. NP
A registered nurse with special training for providing primary health care, including many tasks customarily performed by a physician.
 and several nurses - also included two dentists and two dental technicians.

Pairs of optometrists and cardiopulmonary resuscitation cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), emergency procedure used to treat victims of cardiac and respiratory arrest. CPR can be done in a hospital with drugs and special equipment or as a first-aid technique.  specialists traveled from village to village to augment the core teams. Additional roving medics included a physical therapist and a women's health care specialist. A drug demand-reduction team also offered education to youths on the dangers of drug use.

A new addition to the military training exercise was the deployment of veterinarians who vaccinated as many dogs as possible against rabies and distemper distemper, in veterinary medicine, highly contagious, catarrhal, often fatal disease of dogs. It also affects wolves, foxes, mink, raccoons, and ferrets. Distemper is caused by a filtrable virus that is airborne; it is also spread by infected utensils, brushes, and  during their two-week stay in the Delta. The overall health of the villages can be in jeopardy without the vaccinations because rabies is now epizootic ep·i·zo·ot·ic
adj.
Affecting a large number of animals at the same time within a particular region or geographic area. Used of a disease.



ep
 in western Alaska.

An additional 150 support troops performed various other services. Four combat engineers were assigned to each village where they built small bridges and handicap access ramps to clinics or public buildings, or performed other light construction projects that were deemed necessary by the village councils.

Pilots, crew chiefs and maintenance technicians provided transportation by plane and helicopter for the troops.

The villages that were selected to participate in Arctic Care '98 are encompassed an area the size of Washington state and include Akiachak, Aniak, Bethel, Chevak, Emmonak, Hooper Bay, Kipnuk, Kasigluk, Mountain Village and Quinhagak.
COPYRIGHT 1998 Alaska Business Publishing Company, Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1998 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:health care services in Alaska
Author:Zerbe, Victoria
Publication:Alaska Business Monthly
Date:Jul 1, 1998
Words:632
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