Tuberculosis outbreak declared in Pangnirtung

Department of Health asks people with symptoms to get screened

This is a close-up of the bacteria that causes tuberculosis, a disease that affects Nunavut residents at a much higher rate than other Canadians. (Photo courtesy of the Centers for Disease Control/Dr. George Kubic)

By Nunatsiaq News

Nunavut’s Department of Health has declared an outbreak of tuberculosis in Pangnirtung.

The announcement was made Thursday, after an increase of active cases of the disease in the community.

“Until recently, health staff had been able to establish definitive links between all cases in Pangnirtung and manage the situation with usual public health follow-ups,” states a news release from the territory’s chief public health officer, Dr. Michael Patterson.

“However the growing number of cases and the challenges of establishing how or where all the cases were exposed suggest that enhanced public health follow-up of the situation is necessary.”

The department is asking anybody with symptoms of TB, or who may have been exposed to an active TB case, to visit the local health centre for screening.

Symptoms of TB include a cough that lasts longer than three weeks, fatigue, a loss of appetite, fever or night sweats.

TB is caused by a bacterium called Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It’s spread when somebody with the disease coughs, sneezes, or exhales the bacteria through droplets.

It’s treatable with medications but can be fatal if left unchecked.

The average annual rate of TB among Inuit in Nunavut has been reported at approximately 290 times higher than among Canadian-born non-Indigenous people, according to a Government of Canada communicable disease report from 2018.

That year, the federal government committed to eradicating the disease in the territory with a $27.5 million investment over five years, but that project was stalled by the COVID-19 pandemic.

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