Alaska Native (AN) children, especially those in the Yukon-Kuskokwim region (YK-AN children), suffer some of the highest rates of invasive pneumococcal disease (IPD) in the world. Rates of IPD declined after statewide introduction of the 7-valent pneumococcal conjugate vaccine (PCV7) in 2001, but increased in subsequent years.
Population-based laboratory surveillance data (1986–2007) for invasive Streptococcus pneumoniae infection in Alaskan children <5 years old were used to evaluate the association of IPD rates and serotype distribution with immunization, socioeconomic status, and in-home water service.
Introduction of PCV7 vaccine resulted in elimination of IPD caused by vaccine serotypes, but was followed by increasing rates of IPD caused by nonvaccine serotypes. Among YK-AN children IPD rates dropped by 60%, but then rose due to non-PCV7 serotypes to levels 5- to 10-fold higher than rates in non-YK-AN children and non-AN children. IPD rates in YK-AN children were twice as high in villages where <10% of houses had in-home piped water compared with villages where more than 80% of houses had in-home piped water (390 cases/100,000 vs. 146 cases/100,000, P = 0.008).
High IPD rates in Alaska are associated with lack of in-home piped water (controlling for household crowding and per capita income). The effect of in-home piped water is most likely mediated through reduced water supply leading to limitations on handwashing.