Screening clinic detects new TB cases in Nunavik community

Screening to resume Jan. 11


This image shows the bacteria which causes tuberculosis. Thirty cases of TB have been reported in the Nunavik community of Salluit since June 2015. (FILE IMAGE)

This image shows the bacteria which causes tuberculosis. Thirty cases of TB have been reported in the Nunavik community of Salluit since June 2015. (FILE IMAGE)

A tuberculosis screening clinic in Salluit has uncovered six new cases of the disease in the Nunavik community since mass screening began in early November.

Nunavik’s public health department launched the screening clinic last month after the Hudson Strait community of about 1,300 people reported 24 cases of the infectious disease between June and October.

Now that number has risen to 30 cases, including that of a three-year-old child, health officials said.

Household-based screening has been underway for more than five weeks and “results are showing,” Dr. Serge Déry, Nunavik’s public health director, said in a Dec. 22 release.

As part of the screening process, Salluit residents answer a health questionnaire and undergo skin tests and chest x-rays to verify if they’ve contracted the infection.

Everyone in Salluit — excluding children aged two and under, who have already received a vaccination against TB — have been asked to take part in the clinic, although the process is entirely voluntary.

In addition to the 30 active cases of TB detected in the community, screening staff have found an additional 31 cases of what’s called sleeping or latent TB, an inactive form of the infection.

Although it’s not an active form of the infection, it puts individuals at higher risk of developing active TB later on.

All active and inactive cases are being followed by health care providers, in Salluit, or in Puvirnituq or Montreal, where patients with active cases are usually sent for treatment until they are no longer contagious, typically for a three-week period.

Once home, patients continue taking medication for a six-month period.

Of the 1,250 or so Salluit residents expected to be seen as part of the screening clinic, roughly 700 residents have been tested so far.

The Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services, which is overseeing the clinic and which has wrapped up the clinic during the holidays, plans to resume screening Jan. 11

But any patients diagnosed with either active or sleeping TB will continue to be followed by health care staff in Salluit, the health board said, and they should continue to show up at the local health centre over the holidays to take their medication.

“With the holidays … here, it is important that all individuals take care of themselves by making sure that they are healthy,” said Salluit mayor Paulusie Saviadjuk.

“For those who were not screened in 2015, we won’t forget you! You will be seen in 2016.”

Overall, it hasn’t been a bad year for TB in Nunavik, in addition to Salluit’s 30 cases in the last half of 2015, there were three additional cases reported earlier in the year, and eight other cases reported in Kangiqsualujjuaq.

The symptoms of TB include:

• a major cough that lasts for more than three weeks;

• fatigue;

• loss of appetite;

• night sweats;

• weight loss; and,

• expectoration — the bringing up of phlegm from the lungs.

But many people infected with the tuberculosis bacillus, or germ, don’t become ill or even know they are infected because the germ can lie dormant in a person’s lungs for many years.

Without treatment, however, TB can eventually kill by gradually eating away at the lungs or, in rare cases, by spreading to other organs.

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