Nunavut walrus tests positive for trichinella, GN warns
“We advise all hunters to test walrus prior to consuming”
A walrus recently hunted in Nunavut’s Kivalliq region tested positive for trichinella this week, prompting health officials to issue a warning.
The Government of Nunavut’s health department is advising any Nunavummiut who have recently eaten uncooked walrus to note any adverse reactions and report these to the local health centre.
But there have been no reports to date of anyone who has become infected by the parasite, departmentel spokesperson Ron Wassink told Nunatsiaq News.
In the Arctic, trichinella — known as trichinosis or trichinellosis in an infected person — is caused by a microscopic parasite called trichinella nativa, sometimes found in the meat of wild mammals like polar bears, wolves, foxes and, most commonly, walruses.
The disease can develop after eating uncooked meat from an infected animal.
Once infected meat is consumed, trichinella worm eggs pass into the intestine where they grow and reproduce. The young worms then spread throughout the body in the blood stream.
The first symptoms of trichinellosis include diarrhea, vomiting, fatigue, fever, and abdominal discomfort for one to two days after eating the infected meat.
Headaches, fevers, chills, cough, eye swelling, aching joints and muscle pains, itchy skin, diarrhea, or constipation follow the first symptoms, for about two to eight weeks.
Death can occur in some cases.
The infected walrus was discovered because a Rankin Inlet hunter chose to test it, the department said.
The animal’s tongue was sent out to a lab July 22, and tested July 27.
“We advise all hunters to test walrus prior to consuming,” Wassink said.
Samples — usually tongues — are sent to a lab in Kuujjuaq to be tested. Hunters can contact their local hunters and trappers organization or local environmental health officer for more information, the health department said.
The last trichinosis outbreak reported in the territory was in 2012, when a number of Igloolik residents became ill after eating uncooked walrus.
In 2013, 15 people in the Nunavik community of Inukjuak became infected by the parasite.