Cook walrus before eating, Nunavut health officials warn Igloolik
Patients with trichinosis symptoms must go to health centre
Igloolik residents who eat raw or undercooked walrus meat and then begin feeling the symptoms of trichinosis should head directly for their local health centre, GN health officials said Aug. 16.
The symptoms of trichinosis include vomiting, fever, diarrhea, a rash, muscle pain and fatigue.
To avoid the sickness, people who eat walrus meat should make sure it’s thoroughly cooked, the health department said.
The sickness is caused by a nasty little worm called Trichinella nativa, which lives inside the bodies of walrus and some other birds and mammals.
When they enter the bodies of humans who eat infected meat, trichinella females produce larvae that migrate from the stomach to the intestines.
The larvae grow into adulthood after burrowing into the intestines, where they begin to feed from their host. Eventually, the larvae move around the body, burrowing into muscle cells. A single female can produce up to 1,500 larvae.
The GN said some Igloolik residents have turned up at the health centre recently with trichinosis symptoms. The disease, which can last from three to 21 days, is easily treated with drugs.
Freezing or fermenting walrus meat will not kill the parasite, but cooking will kill it, the GN said.
After a big trichinosis outbreak in Repulse Bay in 2002, the GN set up a program where people can send walrus tongue samples to a lab in Kuujjuaq to be tested.
Nunavut and Nunavik have seen many outbreaks of trichinosis: in Salluit in 1987, when 42 people fell ill; in 1999, when 34 in Qikiqtarjuaq became infected; in 2005, when 12 hunters sickened in Kangiqsualujjuaq after eating barbequed black bear meat, and in 2006 when two people fell ill with trichinosis in Kuujjuaq, and 50 in Cape Dorset.
Igloolik residents can get more information by calling their health centre at (867) 934-2100.