Death of Nain boy likely tuberculosis, health department says

There is "strong indication" the death of Gussie Bennett, 14, was due to TB.

Gussie Bennett, 14, died at the Janeway Children's Hospital in St. John's on March 18

There is 'strong indication' that Gussie Bennett, 14, died in St. John's on March 18 due to tuberculosis, the Department of Health and Community Services said in a release Thursday. (Submitted by Katie Suarak)

There is "strong indication" the recent death of a boy from Nain, Labrador, was caused by tuberculosis, the Department of Health and Community Services said Thursday.

Gussie Bennett, 14, died at the Janeway Children's Hospital in St. John's on March 18, after being flown there from Happy Valley-Goose Bay just days earlier.

The department did not name Bennett in its news release.

"This sudden death is tragic," Delphine Grynszpan, Medical Officer of Health, said in the release.

"I would like to express my sympathy to the family and the community. I want to reassure the public that we are carefully examining the facts of the case."

Public health nurses will now be conducting testing in Nain to identify people who were in close contact with Bennett. As a precautionary measure, people considered to be at risk may be prescribed TB treatments.

Close contacts are defined as people who had regular or prolonged contact with a person who has tested positive for TB.

"It is important for residents to understand that there is no imminent risk to the community," said Nunatsiavut President Johannes Lampe in a news release. 

"TB is spread through close contact with infected individuals. If residents are concerned they or their loved ones may have signs of tuberculosis, they should immediately report to the Nain clinic. TB can be prevented and can be treated." 

Symptoms may include a cough that lasts for two or more weeks, chest pain, loss of appetite, fever, weakness or extreme fatigue and night sweats

TB is preventable and curable, the health department said in its release, and treatment to cure it normally involves taking medication for six to 12 months in the community.

Lampe said the Nunatsiavut government has been in contact with the federal Minister of Indigenous Services, Jane Philpott.

He said the federal government has promised to provide any resources the community may need.