ANCHORAGE, Alaska—The Centers for Disease Control calls it a “national resource.” For Alaskans, the new Arctic Investigations Program laboratory will help to prevent the spread of infections that can make people seriously ill, infections like Influenza, Pneumonia, Hepatitis B, Strep and RSV.
The 2.3 million dollar facility officially opens its doors this afternoon with a traditional Native blessing and a ribbon cutting ceremony.
The new research center is on the Alaska Native Medical Center Campus. It includes renovation of the old lab and a new annex, which about doubles the space of the old facility.
The CDC says the extra room is needed, because the lab is part of a national and international network of facilities. It has the capability to test for agents such as anthrax and tularemia, important to protect the country against the threat of bioterrorism.
The Arctic Investigations Program also works collaboratively with other Arctic nations on controlling infectious diseases they share in common.
The new facility is of particular importance to Rural Alaskans and Alaska Natives, because it conducts research on infections like Helicobacter pylori, prevalent in communities with poor sanitation.
H. pylori is known to cause stomach cancer, and Alaska Natives have rates of stomach cancer three times higher than the general population. The program also tracks treptococcus pneumoniae, which has an infection rate among Alaska Native children that’s among the highest in the world.
The CDC says the new lab is state of the art and will be used to train public health workers in Alaska, so they can better track diseases and prevent them from spreading.