Nunavut Health Department commits to reporting Pang TB numbers every 3 months

31 Pangnirtung residents have been diagnosed with active tuberculosis since January

Health Minister John Main says the 31 diagnosed cases of active tuberculosis since January is an improvement after an outbreak was declared in Pangnirtung in November. (File photo by Dustin Patar)

By David Lochead

Nunavut’s Department of Health says it will report case numbers for the ongoing tuberculosis outbreak in Pangnirtung every three months.

Minister of Health John Main made the commitment in a statement in the legislature Tuesday.

“Containing a TB outbreak takes a sustained effort spread over many months,” he said.

“Ensuring the community is kept informed of what is happening during this extended period is one of our priorities.”

Since January, 31 residents in the hamlet of about 1,500 have been diagnosed with active tuberculosis and 108 have been diagnosed with latent tuberculosis, according to the Health Department.

In late May, the Globe and Mail reported community leaders in Pangnirtung were expressing frustration at the lack of information the Nunavut Health Department has made available to them about the size of the outbreak.

That was around the time the Health Department acknowledged the outbreak, which was declared on Nov. 26, was still ongoing six months later.

Main said there has been an improvement in the number of new cases and a flattening of the curve since then.

He also acknowledged that questions have been asked about why his department did not declare a tuberculosis outbreak in Pangnirtung sooner.

Main said that after reviewing the information, he is “confident” an outbreak was declared only when there was a risk to the whole community.

When asked by Nunatsiaq News what qualifies as the right time to declare an outbreak, Main said it is not a political decision.

It is determined based on epidemiology and the decision is made by chief public health officer Dr. Michael Patterson, he said.

In his minister’s statement, Main also said the GN has a two-year agreement with Health Canada that will provide $1.3 million annually to fight the spread of tuberculosis in Nunavut through data reporting, improved surveillance and added training and research.

Tuberculosis is a bacterial infection that usually affects the lungs. It spreads through droplets caused by sneezing or coughing, and without treatment it can be serious.

A March 2018, report by the Public Health Agency of Canada indicated tuberculosis rates are close to 300 times higher among Inuit than for the Canadian-born, non-Indigenous population.

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(5) Comments:

  1. Posted by Make Iqaluit Great Again on

    I’m going to ask a simple question that was not asked in this article and does not appear to have been asked in any media coverage I have seen on this issue. Pang has a population of about two thousand people. Why not test every woman, man and child in the community until this infection is eradicated? Please don’t tell me this cannot be done. Canada was able to vaccinate 88 percent of its population during Covid and conduct tens of thousands of Covid tests. Consequently, no one can tell me that we can’t send in a team to Pang for as long as it takes to conduct two thousand Mantoux tests or chest X-rays as the case may be. If I was the Minister of Health I would draw my line in the sand, be stubborn and accept nothing less. It’s 2022!! This is a disease from the 1940s!! We all should accept nothing less!!

    • Posted by Good Luck on

      I would imagine the problem isn’t the testing and identifying who has TB. Its making sure the people with TB follow the lengthy treatment for it. I wouldn’t imagine the government confining people for 6 months (Minimum) to ensure they followed treatment.

    • Posted by Harold on

      The GN has already done community wide screening clinics at least 3 times, a few years ago. Kinngait was one of those communities, and despite the screening program there is still active TB here.

      As long as our housing situation stays the same (a dozen people sharing a 2 bedroom house), and as long as food insecurity does not change, TB will remain. Where is NHC, Family Services, Inuit orgs, in addressing all these issues? A community wide screening like you mention will do nothing to address this issue.

      • Posted by As long as… on

        As long as individuals make foolish decisions and fail to complete their treatment for TB, this will continue. Ask anyone who works in healthcare about TB and it is a running joke how patients en mass just skip out on their treatment and government-paid quarantine too early.

        • Posted by The Neverending cycle on

          Ask any nurse why covid spread like wild fire in places like arviat. People were told to quarantine and next thing you know there at the northern store buying smokes to share with there buddys. If nobody will take covid seriously what makes you think they take tb seriously?

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