Inuit Leader Adds Voice to Calls for Compliance, Vigilance against TB Outbreak in Nunavik

Media Release

June 4, 2012 – Ottawa, Ontario – Following an outbreak of active cases of tuberculosis in Nunavik (Northern Quebec), National Inuit Leader Mary Simon, President of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, urged residents to get tested and treated, and repeated calls for action on the social aspects of the disease, including overcrowded housing and poor ventilation.

TB rates among Inuit are similar to those seen in developing countries – nearly 200 cases per 100,000. The number of cases in Kangiqsualujjuaq, a community of 874 on Quebec’s Ungava coast, numbered 46 at the end of May. This amounts to 5% of the community’s population.“Imagine a city the size of Lethbridge, Alberta, or Thunder Bay, Ontario, with 5,000 active cases of TB,” said Simon. “That’s what we’re talking about when we say there are 46 cases in a village of 800 people. It could represent entire families or circles of friends or classes of school-aged children. We are talking about a large proportion of Inuit in a very small community.”

In much of Canada, the TB rate is very low. But among Inuit, it is consistently high, mainly due to significant health and social disparities. An increase of just 7 cases per 100,000 has been shown to lower Inuit life expectancy, which already falls 13 years below the national average.

“TB will never be eliminated in our communities without immediate improvements to housing conditions, access to nutritious food and the availability of health care services,” said Simon. “We must treat the disease, but we cannot ignore its underlying causes.”

In Nunavik, Dr. Serge Déry, the region’s director of public health, and a member of ITK’s Inuit Public Health Task Group, has advised residents to stay away from after-hours “gathering houses,” to visit the health centre if they have a cough that won’t go away – and, if prescribed medication, to stay on that medication for the duration of treatment.

The region has also acquired a new x-ray machine, which will allow residents to be tested more effectively, without the need to fly to Kuujjuaq or Montreal, and has decided to vaccinate newborns and children under one year in Kangiqsualujjuaq as an added layer of protection.

TB has been nearly eradicated among the Canadian-born non-Aboriginal population. In 2009, this group registered 1 case per 100,000 people. Rates among the general Canadian population are the lowest ever recorded – in 2009, this was 4.7 cases per 100 000.

For more information:

Patricia D’Souza, Senior Communications Officer
Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami
[email protected]; 613-292-4482

Contact: Stephen Hendrie, Director of Communications
Tel: 613.277.3178, [email protected]

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