Type 1 diabetes rates especially high in the Pacific Northwest

SEATTLE - Approximately 1.25 million American children and adults have type 1 diabetes according to the American Diabetes Association.

And researchers at the Benaroya Research Institute at Virginia Mason say rates of the autoimmune disease are higher in the Pacific Northwest than anywhere else in the country.

Jennifer Benton, a mother to 20-month-old Kalia has perfected a routine for testing Kalia's blood sugar.

It's a routine repeated 10 times a day, that started on June 30, 2017 when Kalia was rushed to the emergency room at Children's Hospital in Seattle. Her blood sugar levels were above 600, almost six times the normal level.

After days in the intensive care unit, she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes. 

"I cry every day, still, just thinking about, like, the next birthday party she goes to she’s not going to be able to have cake or the goody bag, or little things like that," said Benton.

"Children with type 1 diabetes, they frequently are very thirsty, and they urinate frequently and they frequently lose weight," said Buckner.

"People wonder if it has to do with the climate here, and certainly there is a lot of interest in sunlight and vitamin D and that’s being actively studied as well," said Buckner.

The diagnosis of type 1 diabetes for Benton's family has changed their daily lives. "Every morning we wake up and we do algebra all day long, we’re mathematicians," said Benton showing her logs of carbohydrate content that Kalia consumes in a day.

"It’s doable and there is new technology coming out, but at the end of the day, they need to find a cure," said Benton.

Doctors say if type 1 diabetes is diagnosed early it may prevent serious illnesses later in life and make it easier to manage.