ITK calls for action to prevent TB among Inuit in Canada
"We must treat the disease, but we cannot ignore its underlying causes"
As public health officials in Nunavik tackle an outbreak of tuberculosis in Kangiqsualujjuaq, Mary Simon, the president of Inuit Tapiriit Kanatami, is urging people to get tested and treated for TB.
In a June 4 statement, Simon also repeated her calls for action on dealing with the social aspects of the infection, which include overcrowded housing and poor ventilation.
TB rates among Inuit are similar to those seen in developing countries — nearly 200 cases per 100,000, ITK stated. In Kangiqsualujjuaq, with a population of roughly 800, about 50 people or five per cent of the community’s population have active TB.
“Imagine a city the size of Lethbridge, Alberta, or Thunder Bay, Ontario, with 5,000 active cases of TB,” Simon said. “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.”
TB also lowers Inuit life expectancy, which already falls 13 years below the national average, ITK said.
“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. We must treat the disease, but we cannot ignore its underlying causes,” Simon said.
TB has been nearly eradicated among the Canadian-born, non-aboriginal population, ITK noted.
In 2009, this group registered one 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.