Nunavik public health director pleads for cooperation in curbing TB outbreak
Active tuberculosis cases in Kangiqsualujjuaq at 48
PUVIRNITUQ — With the number of active tuberculosis cases in Kangiqsualujjuaq now at 48 (up from 46 on May 25 and 33 earlier this month), Nunavik’s director of public health visited Puvirnituq May 30 to rally public support for efforts to end the largest TB outbreak Nunavik has seen since 2004.
Since 2004, there have been 137 cases in Nunavik, Dr. Serge Déry told counsellors at the Kativik Regional Government meeting.
Most TB cases during those past eight years were concentrated in Umiujaq, with 19 cases, Salluit with 17, Inukjuak with 11 and Puvirnituq with nine.
This makes the outbreak in Kangiqsualujjuaq much larger than usual, he said.
But what’s also new about the outbreak is that it’s continuing to expand in numbers, with 48 active cases diagnosed since November 1.
That’s unusual, Déry said, and this requires “unusual procedures” to prevent its spread, he said, mentioning the portable x-ray machine that is now looking for TB within the lungs of 800 residents in the Ungava Bay community.
Déry said he didn’t expect to have to place Kangiqsualujjuaq under quarantine.
But the public health department can’t send in more x-ray machines, more doctors and more nurses, he said, because those measures alone won’t be able to curb the outbreak.
So, Déry made a plea — also broadcast live on Nunavik’s Taqramiut Nipingat Inc. radio network — for more cooperation.
He asked people who are found to be infected with TB to take their medication. That’s because many people, previously prescribed a nine-month or year-long course of treatment for “sleeping” TB, which has no symptoms, have now developed active TB.
Probably they did not complete their prescribed treatment, Déry suggested.
If not properly treated, TB can eventually kill by gradually eating away at the lungs or, in rare cases, by spreading to other organs.
To limit the spread of TB, Déry also asked for more cooperation in closing down the so-called “gathering houses” in Kangiqsualujjuaq where people, particularly youth, get together to socialize, smoke and drink.
But regional counsellor Kitty Annanack, who is also the mayor of Kangiqsualujjuaq, said overcrowded housing must be dealt with to eliminate TB in her community.
TB will continue to be a problem if nothing is done to relieve the lack of decent housing throughout the region, said Sarollie Weetaluktuk, the regional counsellor from Inukjuak.
That’s forced some Inukjuak residents to live in unheated, poorly ventilated shacks, which are bad for their health, he said.