Nunatsiaq Online
NEWS: Nunavut February 05, 2013 - 7:15 am

Nunavut reports RSV infections in Kivalliq, Kitikmeot

You can still get flu shots, GN says

SAMANTHA DAWSON
This brochure, produced about five years ago by the Government of Nunavut, provides advice to parents whose children become infected with RSV and urges hand-washing to prevent the disease from spreading.
This brochure, produced about five years ago by the Government of Nunavut, provides advice to parents whose children become infected with RSV and urges hand-washing to prevent the disease from spreading.

A virus that mostly affects infants in Nunavut, respiratory syncytial virus, or RSV, is circulating in the Kivalliq and Kitikmeot regions, Maureen Baikie, Nunavut’s chief medical officer of health, said in a statement Feb. 4.

The RSV virus, which can cause a respiratory illness called bronchiolitis, can occur in people of all ages, but infants suffer the worst effects.

Bronchiolitis is an infection of the smaller airways in the lower part of the lung.

In very young babies with weak immune systems, its symptoms may be frightening: high fever, coughing, wheezing, rapid breathing, and at its most life-threatening, a bluish discoloration of the skin caused by lack of oxygen.

In southern Canada, only about one or two per cent of infants with brochiolitis get so sick that they need to go to a hospital. But in Nunavut, that number is usually higher.

The symptoms are: nasal stuffiness and runny nose, cough, difficult or rapid breathing, wheezing, fever, and no interest in food or play.

In 2011, two babies died in Igloolik due to a “flu-like illness,” after which the Government of Nunavut admitted that RSV had been detected in Nunavut communities at that time.

Dr. Anna Banerji, a pediatric infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto, told Nunatsiaq News in a previous interview that Nunavut suffers from a perfect storm of breeding conditions for the virus, including: overcrowding, poor ventilation, high smoking rates, low levels of breastfeeding, many premature births and poor diet.

In 2009 the Canadian Pediatric Association recommended that children in isolated northern or rural remote communities who need to be flown to hospital facilities and who are born prematurely, should routinely receive palivizumab injections to protect them from RSV.

This was because of the higher rates of RSV in remote areas, as well as its severity and the costs associated with hospitalization.

Illness due to RSV can be prevented by: covering your cough, washing your hands especially before and after touching babies, avoid kissing small children if you have cold symptoms, keeping healthy babies away from sick babies, not smoking in your house or around babies and small children, and staying home if you’re not feeling well.

Baikie also confirmed that there are 25 cases of influenza in Nunavut.

“The rate of influenza-like illness, which is an indicator of influenza activity, has been slightly elevated for the last few weeks and is holding steady,” she said.

The Government of Nunavut is encouraging people to get a flu shot at local health centres, or at the public health clinic in Iqaluit.

The nose spray FluMist vaccine is available for children aged two to 17.

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