Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut May 18, 2016 - 3:02 pm

Elder dies in Nunavut community’s big flu outbreak

At its height, 80 people a day went to the local health centre

THOMAS ROHNER
What makes you sick with the flu: this illustration from the Centre for Disease Control shows a 3D representation of an influenza bacteria.
What makes you sick with the flu: this illustration from the Centre for Disease Control shows a 3D representation of an influenza bacteria.

An outbreak of influenza in the Baffin community of Pangnirtung has eased.

But that’s only after the virus claimed the life of an elder in this Baffin community of 1,700, sources told Nunatsiaq News.

The outbreak, first reported on May 5, closed schools and offices, driving up to 80 people a day to the local health centre, Nunavut’s medical officer of health, Kim Barker said May 5.

“That’s an unusually large amount of people going through the health centre,” Barker said.

Multiple official sources in the community, who did not want to be named in this story, have said the death of an elder is suspected to linked to the flu outbreak.

“Dr. Barker says [the outbreak has] subsided and that there have been no new cases,” a statement from the Nunavut’s health department said.

The local Attagoyuk Ilisavik School shut down from May 3 to May 6, said principal Allan Boyce.

“[But] we’re back to normal now, basically. There’s still some people getting sick, but, for the most part, it’s back to normal,” Boyce said.

Charles Banfield, superintendent of schools for the Qikiqtani region, said Alookie and Attagoyuk schools each lost 3.5 days of class time between May 3 and May 6, but that school staff will be able to make up for the lost time.

“Because the school year calendars have ample time built in to cover such interruptions, the students are receiving more than the required hours of instruction There will be no need to make up class time,” Banfield said in an email to Nunatsiaq News.

“The schools are back to normal. While the remnants of the flu are still evident in the community, they are not affecting regular school hours and classes,” Banfield said.

Pangnirtung’s hamlet office, whose staff had also been crippled by the outbreak, also confirmed that it’s back to business as usual as well.

Influenza A, the culprit virus, is a strain that usually peaks in January or February.

Barker said it is unusual for that strain to peak this time of year — usually Influenza B is more common in the spring months.

Normal protocols for preventing the spread of flu include washing your hands frequently, coughing into your sleeve rather than your hand and staying home if you feel sick, she said.

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