19 more TB cases so far this year in Labrador, compared to 2014
Tuberculosis cases in two Labrador communities are up by nearly five times so this year, compared to the numbers identified in 2014.
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Labrador-Grenfell Health confirmed Friday there have been 24 cases of TB in Labrador so far in 2015, up from a total five in the region during the previous year.
Both the communities of Nain and Happy Valley-Goose Bay have seen spikes in TB cases, with nearly all of those cases linked to outbreaks of the infectious disease.
In Nain, there have been 20 cases of TB confirmed so far this year, and health authorities have determined that all of the infected people came into contact with others with the disease prior to getting it themselves.
In Happy Valley-Goose Bay, there have been four total cases of TB in 2015, with all but one linked to the outbreak.
According to an official with Labrador-Grenfell Health, one of the cases is considered "sporadic" and could not be epidemiologically linked to other reported cases.
Focus on containing, preventing infections
Labrador-Grenfell Health is working with the Nunatsiavut Government and the province's Chief Medical Officer of Health to try and take control of the TB outbreak to stop it from spreading.
One of the key parts of that process is the identification of close contacts of those individuals infected, an exercise known as tracing.
So far, Labrador-Grenfell Health said it has investigated around 735 contacts in both Nain and Happy Valley-Goose Bay.
The authority said during the first two weeks someone is infected, they are contagious to others.
Through the tracing process, a number of patients have been flagged who are still infectious, which officials believe is why such a high number of cases have been reported.
Once a TB infection has been confirmed, it can take at least six months to treat — even after the two-week infectious period has passed.
Sharing of cigarettes flagged
While working to trace and treat individuals with TB, Labrador-Grenfell Health has been also working to educate people on how to prevent it from spreading in the first place.
One of the most common ways it can be contracted, according to the health authority, is through the sharing of cigarettes or other smoking devices.
Labrador-Grenfell Health advises young people in particular be cautious about practicing good hygiene and eating healthy.
Below are some steps people can take if they suspect they may have been in contact with someone infected with TB, as identified by Labrador-Grenfell Health.
- If you are sick or feel unwell, and have any of the following symptoms: fever, night sweats, cough, weight loss, go directly to your local community clinic.
- If you have been identified as a contact of someone who is sick, you will be contacted by a public health nurse. A contact can be a family member or a close friend. If you're contacted by your public health nurse, it's important for you to work with your health care providers.
- If you feel you might be a contact of someone who is sick with TB, you can contact your local Public Health Nurse.
- TB is a bacterial infection and it has been eradicated in most places in Canada, but it continues to pose challenges in some northern communities.
- Treatment and taking all of the medication as prescribed is the best way to eradicate the TB bacteria.