Community in Canada’s eastern Arctic dealing with hepatitis A outbreak

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Chesterfield Inlet, Nunavut is dealing with a hepatitis A outbreak. Nunavut’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Mike Patterson, says the treatment in outbreak situations is one dose of the hepatitis A vaccine to protect people for a few months to a year. (iStock)
A hepatitis A outbreak in Chesterfield Inlet is not over. In fact, Nunavut’s Department of Health now suspects there are as many as 11 cases of the disease in the community.

It has been working to encourage all the people who might have had contact with those infected to get vaccinated as soon as possible.

Nunavut’s chief medical officer of health, Dr. Mike Patterson, says there have been new cases this week.

“Once you’ve come in contact with hepatitis A it takes about two weeks for an infection to set in and it takes about a week for the vaccine to be effective. So, the bottom line is that the vaccine is about 95 percent effective in stopping even people who’ve been in close contact with hepatitis A,” Patterson said.

Dr. Michael Patterson, Nunavut’s chief medical officer of health, says the hepatitis A outbreak in Chesterfield Inlet is not over. (CBC)

Patterson says the strain of the disease found in Chesterfield Inlet is the same strain as what’s usually found across Canada, and is likely caused from consuming contaminated food.

The government of Nunavut is working with health researchers across Canada to identify the cause.

Hepatitis A is uncommon in Canada. The treatment in outbreak situations is one dose of the vaccine to protect people for a few months to a year, Patterson said.

Some people do not get sick, but can still spread the infection to others.

Those who do have symptoms will likely get better on their own, though the length and severity of illness may vary.

“They will feel ill, very tired, stomach pain maybe some nausea and vomiting for a week or two and they may get a bit of a yellow tint to their skin,” Patterson said.

In less than one per cent of cases, an infected individual can get very sick and die.

Vaccines are available at the Chesterfield Inlet health centre.

Related stories from around the North:

Canada: Canadian Inuit organization releases strategy to eliminate TB by 2030, Radio Canada International

Finland: Doctor shortage in South, patient shortage in North during Finland’s summer, Yle News

United States: Alaska TB rate dips but still among the U.S. highest, Alaska Public Media

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Sara Frizzell, CBC News

Sara Frizzell, CBC News

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