Nunavut health officials are warning residents of Sanikiluaq that they may be at risk of contracting a potentially deadly parasite after trichinella worms were found in the meat of two walruses hunted this month.
The walruses were killed on Sept. 3, and the raw meat was shared and eaten by many people in the remote hamlet of roughly 750 located in Hudson Bay.
But it turned out the meat from one of the walruses is contaminated with trichinella worms, tiny parasitic roundworms that cause trichinosis, according to a Nunavut health advisory issued Thursday afternoon.
Trichinosis is a gastrointestinal illness that can lead to flu-like symptoms and, in severe cases, death. Symptoms include stomach and muscle pain, diarrhea, swollen eyelids, sweating and weakness.
Someone who has eaten the infected walrus meat could become very ill within three to 21 days, according to health officials. They are urging anyone in Sanikiluaq who has eaten the walrus meat to seek medical treatment at the local health centre.
Even those who have not shown symptoms are being urged to get treatment "in order to be protected from serious illness or death," the health advisory states.
Residents who have the walrus meat from the Sept. 3 harvest are being advised to destroy it or cook it thoroughly before eating it or feeding it to their dogs.
Dogs and other animals can also contract trichinosis if they have eaten the infected raw walrus meat.