Gussie Bennett, 14, died on March 18, 2018 from what is believed to have been tuberculosis. (Submitted to CBC by Katie Suarak)

Canada vows to eradicate TB in the North

Just as a teenage boy is thought to have died from tuberculosis last weekend, the Canadian government has unveiled plans to eradicate active TB in the North by 2030. Tuberculosis is a preventable and curable bacterial infection that mainly affects the lungs and can cause death if untreated.

Tuberculosis is caused by contagious bacteria that affect the lungs and is fought with a long course of antibiotics. (Lefteris Pitarakis/Associated Press)

Indigenous people in the North face 300 times risk

The incidence of TB among all Canadians in 2016 was 4.8 cases per 100,000 people. But for Inuit (Indigenous people of the North) living anywhere it was slightly more than 170 cases per 100,000. For Inuit who live in the North, the incidence of tuberculosis is 300 times higher than among Canadian-born, non-Indigenous people.

The higher infection rates are partly attributed poor and overcrowded housing, food insecurity, access to health services and mental health issues. These are areas the government plans to focus on in order to cut active TB in the north by half within seven years and eliminate it by 2030. The government has committed $27.5 million over five years to meet its goals.

Higher infection rates ‘outrageous,’ says minister

At a news conference, Indigenous Services Minister Jane Philpott called the much higher infection rates among Inuit outrageous but “eminently solvable” given available medical technology.

March 24, 2018 is World Tuberculosis Day and marks efforts to eradicate the disease around the world.

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