The New Arctic

pp 239-257

Infectious Disease in the Arctic: A Panorama in Transition

  • Alan ParkinsonAffiliated withArctic Investigations Program, Division of Preparedness and Emerging Infections, Centers for Disease Control & Prevention, National Center for Emerging and Zoonotic Diseases Email author 
  • , Anders KochAffiliated withDepartment of Epidemiology Research, Statens Serum Institut
  • , Birgitta EvengårdAffiliated withDivision of Infectious Diseases, Department of Clinical Microbiology, Umeå University Hospital

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Many interconnected factors are responsible for the continuing and growing importance of infectious diseases in the Arctic. Many of these factors not only contribute to the risk of infectious diseases but also are broad determinants of the populations overall health. In the last part of the nineteenth and first part of the twentieth centuries, infectious diseases were major causes of mortality in Arctic communities. However the health of indigenous peoples of the circumpolar region has improved over the last 50 years. Despite these improvements, rates of viral hepatitis, tuberculosis, respiratory tract infections, invasive bacterial infections, sexually transmitted diseases, infections caused by Helicobacter pylori, and certain zoonotic and parasitic infections are higher in the Arctic indigenous peoples when compared to their respective national population rates. More recently the climate and ecosystem driven emergence of climate sensitive infectious diseases and disease patterns in the Arctic region presents an emerging challenge to those living in the Arctic. As in other parts of the world, a key component of prevention and control of infectious diseases is surveillance. The use of circumpolar health networks, together with effective coordinated surveillance can facilitate timely control of infectious disease outbreaks, inform public health officials’ decisions on resource allocation, provide data to adjust prevention and control strategies to maximize their effects, and inform future research needs.


Arctic Circumpolar health Infectious diseases Indigenous peoples Climate change