Nunavik works to control TB outbreak, without TB vaccine

Number of active tuberculosis cases in Kangiqsualujjuaq pegged at 68


Nunavik, like Nunavut, can't rely on the BCG vaccine to curb the rates of TB in Kangiqsualujjuaq. (FILE PHOTO)

Nunavik, like Nunavut, can’t rely on the BCG vaccine to curb the rates of TB in Kangiqsualujjuaq. (FILE PHOTO)

A plan to squash a tuberculosis outbreak in Kangiqsualujjuaq has hit a bump: the Bacille Calmette-Guérin or BCG vaccine, which regional heath officials wanted to give children up to age seven in that Nunavik community, is no longer available.

That’s because all stocks of BCG vaccine, a drug which provides 80 per cent protection against TB for 15 years, have been voluntarily recalled by the manufacturer, Sanofi Pasteur.

Health Canada announced earlier this month that the company had withdrawn 4,700 vials of the vaccine from circulation. The company withdrew an earlier 1,000 vials from circulation this past April.

Supplies of the TB vaccine given to most Nunavut infants have also dried up.

“Once the vaccine manufacturer resumes supplying BCG doses, we will proceed with the vaccination of children without further delay,” said a June 28 news update from the Nunavik regional health and social services board.

The health board was looking for 120 doses of BCG to vaccinate children up to age seven, that is, who were born after 2004 when the use of BCG stopped in Nunavik.

Meanwhile, Nunavik’s public health officials are not recommending the BCG vaccination or even the application of a tuberculin skin test for workers coming into the community over the summer “as the degree of contact with the local population is very limited.”

As of June 26, 68 cases of active TB had been reported since the beginning of 2012 in Kangiqsualujjuaq, which has a population of 874.

In Nunavik, 74 tuberculosis cases have been reported to date in 2012: 65 in Kangiqsualujjuaq, eight in Salluit and one in Kangiqsujuaq.

That’s up from 2010, when there were only 12 TB cases reported in Nunavik, and from 2011 when 27 cases reported in the region.

To deal with the outbreak in Kangiqsualujjuaq, the Nunavik Department of Public Health, working with the Ungava Tulattavik Health Centre and the Kangiqsualujjuaq CLSC, has a four-part plan of action.

It’s based on the organization of services, like the new, portable x-ray machine now in Kangiqsualujjuaq, community action, communication and surveillance from experts with the Public Health Agency of Canada and other health centres who are identifying the groups in Kangiqsualluaq who are most at risk, “in view of targeted intervention.”

In the coming weeks and months, the Nunavik Department of Public Health also plans on designing a program for preventing and controlling TB in the entire region, the June 28 TB update said.

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