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West J Med. Oct 1990; 153(4): 390–393.
PMCID: PMC1002567

Botulism among Alaska Natives. The role of changing food preparation and consumption practices.


Alaska Natives have one of the highest rates of food-borne botulism worldwide. All outbreaks have been associated with the consumption of native foods, but in recent years outbreaks have occurred in previously unaffected areas and have involved new food items. Five botulism outbreaks occurred between 1975 and 1985 in an area of southwestern Alaska without previous confirmed outbreaks and among one ethnic group, the Yupik Eskimo. Of the 5 outbreaks, 3 were associated with fermented beaver tail, a nontraditional native food recently introduced into the region. Preparation techniques vary widely within villages and among ethnic groups. Traditional fermentation techniques have changed over the past 50 years; current preparation methods used by some families and ethnic groups may be more favorable for Clostridium botulinum growth. Prevention efforts should be targeted at high-risk subgroups of Alaska Natives who appear to have modified traditional practices and increased their risk of food-borne botulism.

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Selected References

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