Death of four-year-old Nunavut boy believed to be from flu

Patients at QGH, health centres may see delays, GN says


The mayor of Igloolik said a local four-year-old boy died of flu last week amidst an outbreak of the respiratory illness in the Baffin community of 1,700. (FILE PHOTO)

The mayor of Igloolik said a local four-year-old boy died of flu last week amidst an outbreak of the respiratory illness in the Baffin community of 1,700. (FILE PHOTO)

(Updated 9:30 a.m., March 13)

The mayor of Igloolik says that a four-year-old boy from the Baffin region community has died from influenza.

Celestino Uyarak said the local boy was medevaced to Iqaluit for care early last week, but died at the Qikiqtani General Hospital March 5.

Uyarak said the boy’s death was related to the flu, the contagious respiratory illness that has seen an outbreak this winter in the community of about 1,700 people.

Nunavut’s deputy coroner, Khen Sagadraca, said his office is investigating the circumstances surrounding the March 5 death of a child at Qikiqtani General Hospital.

But Sagadraca couldn’t confirm the child’s cause of death, saying an autopsy is underway.

Uyarak said the boy’s body was scheduled to be flown home to Igloolik March 12 for burial.

Another one-year-old infant from Igloolik was recently medevaced first to Iqaluit and then to Ottawa with serious flu symptoms, but has since recovered, Uyarak said.

“The outbreak is under control now—they’re not sending out patients by medevac any more,” he said. “But we have to do more to get the message out to families.”

Uyarak said a community health worker has been doing public service announcements on the local radio encouraging community members to frequently wash their hands with soap and to keep children home from school if they show symptoms of the flu.

Last week in the legislative assembly, Nunavut Health Minister Pat Angnakak said the QGH and health centres throughout the territory have seen a rise in respiratory illness this winter.

Agnakak urged Nunavummiut to stay at home from school, work and other social activities if they feel sick, which can mean a fever and cough, a runny nose, sore throat, body aches, fatigue and a loss of appetite.

“People should consult a health care provider if they have difficulty breathing or are getting worse after a few days,” she told the legislature March 9.

Meanwhile, the Department of Health issued an advisory March 13 that says patients may see delays in service at Qikiqtani General Hospital and community health centres, due to an increase in visits from people with respiratory illnesses.

Health staff are now screening patients to ensure those in greatest need are given priority.

They also warn healthy people to say away from health centres to avoid infection.

“Health strongly recommends if you or your children do not need to be assessed or treated, do not accompany sick family members to the health centre or hospital during this time to avoid potential exposure to respiratory illness,” the advisory said.

They also remind people that the flu is caused by a virus and cannot be treated with antibiotics.

“Antibiotics will not help get rid of respiratory illnesses; our bodies’ immune systems will fight them off on their own. If you think you have a respiratory illness, it is important to stay hydrated by drinking lots of water, 100 percent fruit juice, soup,” the GN said.

The flu shot is still available to Nunavummiut free of charge at health centres and is especially recommended to protect babies and elders from the flu. Visit for more information.

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