Nunatsiaq News
NEWS: Nunavik May 09, 2018 - 10:30 am

Fearing rabies, Nunavik woman complains about slow treatment of fox bite

Public health recommends rabies treatment within 48 hours after bite

Nellie Aliqu posted this photo of the bite mark on her leg to social media the day after she was bitten by what she believes was a rabid fox. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)
Nellie Aliqu posted this photo of the bite mark on her leg to social media the day after she was bitten by what she believes was a rabid fox. (SUBMITTED PHOTO)

A Nunavik woman wants to see the region’s health centres carry rabies vaccines at all times, after she was bitten by a fox and had to wait two days for treatment.

Nellie Aliqu was leaving a friend’s house in Quaqtaq last Saturday evening, May 5, with her infant in her amauti, when a fox ran up and bit her on the leg.

“Someone shouted: there’s something behind you!” Aliqu recounted. “But that little rat bit me hard.”

The 28-year-old woman said the fox tried to bite her again, but she swatted the animal away with a bag she was holding.

Aliqu said the fox was “acting weird” and “moving fast” and had a bloody face. After she scared the animal away, a loose dog attacked and killed the fox.

Aliqu’s husband called the on-call nurse and took her directly to the community health centre, where a nurse cleaned her wound and prescribed antibiotics for the bitten area.

But the health centre was out of the vaccine that is administered after someone is bitten by an animal. Aliqu said she was sent home and told the vaccine would arrive in Quaqtaq the following day, May 6.

When she called the clinic on Sunday, she was told she would only be able to receive the medication on Monday.

Aliqu said she felt weak and had a hard time walking on Sunday, the day after she was bitten. She slept for longer than usual that night and had her husband take her back to the clinic on Monday morning, May 7.

At that point, a different nurse told her she needed to receive the vaccination right away and arranged for Aliqu to get on the morning flight to Kuujjuaq.

“She said, you need to leave. You need to receive the shot right away,” Aliqu said.

She arrived in Kuujjuaq mid-day May 7 and received a series of vaccinations that same afternoon.

Aliqu said she’s feeling better, but she worries she was vaccinated too late and wants to be sent to Montreal for further testing. She flew home to Quaqtaq late May 8.

“I hope I’m OK,” Aliqu said. “It just worries me because I have four kids who are young, and a husband.”

In Nunavik, anyone who has been bitten by an animal suspected to be infected is given two shots right away: immune globulin and the first dose of a vaccine that must be repeated three more times over a two-week period.

Dr. Marie Rochette with Nunavik’s public health department said it’s recommended to receive that first treatment within 48 hours of a bite, though she wouldn’t comment specifically on Aliqu’s case.

“Sooner is better,” she said. “But it also depends on the site of the bite, and whether it was a wild or domestic animal.”

Bites on the head or neck are more serious because of the proximity to the brain, she noted.

Because of the vaccine’s expiration date, there are only two centres in Nunavik that keep that medication in stock at all times: Kuujjuaq and Puvirnituq.

“The request for these products is too small in these villages to ensure they’ll be used,” Rochette said.

Instead, community health centres order them when needed, she said, and it hasn’t been an issue—there have been no human cases of rabies in Nunavik in recent years.

Cases of rabies among animals are harder to track for Nunavik’s public health department, because the responsibility for that falls on Quebec’s Ministry of Agriculture, which tests animal samples and compiles data for the region.

Rochette estimates there are only a handful of cases of rabies among animals each year in Nunavik, but she said it’s too early this year to say if that number is on the rise.

There’s been a noticeable increase in the fox population across Canada’s eastern Arctic, where a bump in the lemming population means foxes are having more offspring.

Even if cases of rabies are infrequent, Rochette cautions that every Nunavik community is at risk.

“Anyone who is bitten or scratched by an animal where it breaks the skin should consult their health care centre,” she said.

If you can’t see a health care professional right away, Rochette said the first thing anyone has been bitten can do is wash the bite area with soap and water for between 10 to 15 minutes.

That can remove the risk of infection by up to 90 per cent, she said.

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(10) Comments:

#1. Posted by Nunalik on May 09, 2018

these rabbits are getting too wild from getting easy foods from mines yup its true mines feed them like if they were humans

#2. Posted by rabies psyco-delic on May 09, 2018

Rabies and mines have little do with the effect and affect.  Communities may have more to do with it, since mice can have a big populations in the dumps and also thick grasses.  There they spread disease among themselves, and then to foxes.

Good for this woman to speak out.  Medical care is a very important citizenship right.  Everyone should clearly insist on proper medical care, without getting emotionally nasty.

#3. Posted by Catherine on May 09, 2018

The first nurse that saw this woman needs to be talked to by the health officials, it’s not right for this nurse not to take this case seriously. I, glad the second nurse to quick action thinking of the patient.

#4. Posted by Brian Aglukark on May 09, 2018

I would like the Dr ( Rochette)  to prove her reasoning, that a person bit by a rabid animal can fully recover after waiting 48h without going south for further treatment. Rochette, lets get bit by a fox wait two days, before getting vaccinated (treated), then be administered by the first nurse mentioned in this article.  And, not go to a hospital downsouth for further treatment.  Rochette, let’s test the system on your health.  We shall wait for the results.

#5. Posted by Blown Up on May 09, 2018

Ok, this has been blown way out of proportion. Rabies is not a medical emergency…. this isn’t 28 Days Later.

Receiving shots 48hrs after exposure is a recommended time frame. It does not mean that there will be grave consequences if not taken within 48 hrs. There are many people who don’t get them for weeks after they learned they may have been exposed.

Both nurses did nothing wrong. Vaccinations were requested by the first one by the sound of it. Since they didn’t show up, they sent her to a community that did have the vaccine so she could have the shot within that time frame. Sounds like they actually did a great job to me.

The last case of someone dying when being exposed in Canada was in 2007, and that was because he never went in to be seen by a doctor/nurse for 5 months after he was bit.

#6. Posted by raglan mine worker on May 09, 2018

im a mine worker here and theres no such thing that we feed the animals we have strict régulations at the mine to comment #1

#7. Posted by Inukqi on May 09, 2018

OUCH   Must have hurt. You lucky. Think positive. Everybody makes mistake. Not on purpose most of the time. Get well soon!!

#8. Posted by YWB on May 09, 2018

You can say that again #6, I’ve been to raglan dump myself and I’ve seen fox after fox as if they’re like a chain of foxes.

#9. Posted by Foxes on May 10, 2018

All northern communities have foxes around.  Guess why and guess why.  #8 is right.  Dumps are like bars for foxes.

#10. Posted by Medical results on May 22, 2018

Oh my, first of all, if the victim was southerner, she’d go be treated speedy urgent! And then, when it comes to an Inuk patient, let’s see how long victim will get affected type of thing. We’re not Kenny pigs. 

Stop this two raced treatment, everyone should get treated equally!

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