Nunavik health board returns to TB prevention as COVID-19 declines

More resources will be available for education, screening, says regional director of public health

Dr. Marie Rochette, Nunavik’s director of public health, says fewer COVID-19 cases across the region allow the health board to put more resources into preventing tuberculosis. (Photo courtesy of the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services)

By Jeff Pelletier

A decline in COVID-19 cases means the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services can refocus its efforts on preventing another problematic disease in the region: tuberculosis.

Tuberculosis screening and treatment have been available throughout the pandemic, said Dr. Marie Rochette, Nunavik’s director of public health. But COVID-19 outbreaks and restrictions over the past two years have made it hard to set up community screening events.

“Communities were more concerned by COVID than tuberculosis,” Rochette said in an interview on Thursday, which was also World Tuberculosis Day. 

“Our plan was to have two to three [community screenings] per year, and we were only able to do one, partially, during the pandemic because all the resources were affected due to the management of COVID-19.”

Tuberculosis is more common across Inuit Nunangat than in the south, according to Rochette. Crowded housing, as well as the consumption of alcohol, tobacco and cannabis are all risk factors that can make the disease worse.

Tuberculosis symptoms may include  prolonged cough, chest pain, weakness or fatigue, weight loss, fever and night sweats, according to the World Health Organization. It’s caused by a bacterial infection and is spread through the air by coughing, talking or singing.

With more resources available now, Rochette said the health board has more flexibility to educate the public about prevention, treatment, and breaking the stigma people face when they get sick.

She also said that tuberculosis screening will be offered during clinical visits to ensure that it is as accessible as possible.

“We would like to integrate screening like a clinical routine, so people will be invited to try screening every two years,” she said. “This is a new approach we would like to implement and see how it works.”

Tuberculosis rates have decreased in Nunavik in recent years. There have been four cases so far this year — a number Rochette says is “quite low” compared to 69 cases in 2019.

Reduced socializing and other pandemic-related restrictions could be a potential factor in lower TB rates, she said, adding community screening helps track and treat active cases.

Rochette emphasized that Nunavimmiut should remember that tuberculosis is both preventable and treatable. Preventive medications and antibiotics are available to people who are sick and at risk. 

“We are working with the different community’s leaders, and the population, and the health centres to reduce and eliminate this disease in the region,” she said.

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(5) Comments:

  1. Posted by John K on

    As we *move away from concern for and measures against* COVID 19.

    It isn’t declining; we’re learning to live with it.

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  2. Posted by DUMBFOUNDED!! on

    nrbhss states that covid 19 is declining. the quebec govenment states that covid 19 is rising faster than ever. who to believe? fear mongering at its finest.

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  3. Posted by Ahlupa on

    It’s been proven with a good safety record over the last 2 years that Ivermectin, fluvoxmine, zinc, and more to use as preventative use and medical treatments, if you look at studies by dr Peter McCullough you will get the proper non adulterated truth

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  4. Posted by Withheld on

    We have been thru the wringer collectively since March 2020. Mental health could also use more and a more coordinated, by multiple orgs, attention, starting with activities to get people out enjoying the end of the winter season.

    • Posted by kuujuaq resident on

      Glad to see finally the face of the voice of directions we had to take over the last 2 years in Nunavik (with Nunavut Michael Patterson’s pic always showing)…good job Marie, with your guidance, we have been safe!

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