Nfld. & Labrador

Tuberculosis suspected as 14-month-old from Nain flown to St. John's

The AngajukKâk of Nain says there’s another suspected case of tuberculosis in his community, just one week after 14-year-old Gussie Bennett died from complications related to the disease.

Suspected second case in just over a week has residents anxious

Joe Dicker, AngajukKâk of Nain, says a 14-month-old is suspected to have tuberculosis. (Jacob Barker/CBC)

The AngajukKâk, or mayor, of Nain says there's another suspected case of tuberculosis in the northern Labrador community, just one week after 14-year-old Gussie Bennett died from complications related to the disease.

Joe Dicker told CBC on Tuesday that a 14-month-old is being treated for the illness in St. John's.

He said the news of a potential second case has people on edge.

About 1,100 people live in Nain, on Labrador's northern coast. (Google Maps)

"We were quite alarmed by it as a community, that there was another case for such a young person," said the AngajukKâk.

In an interview with Labrador Morning, Dicker reiterated questions many have had since news of Bennett's death from tuberculosis last week, especially in light of the widespread testing done in the community following an outbreak in 2014 and 2015.

"Why is it happening now? Why wasn't it detected when the search was on it 2015?" he said.

"Granted, I know that the little one [wasn't] born [at that time]. But how? What situation was it that created the environment that TB could flourish?"

200 new people already tested for TB

Dr. Delphine Grynszpan, a provincial medical officer of health, says she can't confirm the new tuberculosis diagnosis, but that plans are still going ahead to test the people closest to Bennett.

"It's a process that started last week. I know that the teams in Nain have already starting testing for about 200 people, including the middle school."

Delphine Grynszpan says that over 200 residents of Nain have been tested for TB since the death of Gussie Bennett. (Eddy Kennedy/CBC)
Dicker has heard from one resident wanting testing who was told the wait for a test could be upwards of a month, but Grynszpan said that's not true.

"I was speaking to the people on the ground earlier today, and my understanding is that no, people will be able to be tested ASAP," she said.

Dicker said a flu outbreak in Nain is also complicating matters.

"There are two teams working closely together, offering two slightly different services," said Grynszpan.

"If anyone is sick they should report to the Nain clinic, and if anyone has questions about TB screening and about skin testing, or has been invited for a skin test, then they should report to the public health clinic."

Dicker wants more support from feds

While Grynszpan said the province is actively monitoring the situation and has already sent in more nurses to provide relief, Dicker said he'd like to see more support from the federal government.

"Right now caregivers in this community are being overwhelmed … they have to take rest too," he said.

"More help that we can get, the more welcome it is."

He wants to see everyone in the town of 1,100 people tested for the disease, and cited an example in a Nunavut where the government tested everyone in the community during an major outbreak.

Dicker wants to see everyone in his community tested for tuberculosis. (CBC)

Grynszpan said her department is looking into what can be brought into the community, and how screening could be offered more widely. 

"We are considering the options and we are considering how to do it in the best and most effective way on the ground," she said.

Dicker said that if people knew for sure they didn't have tuberculosis, it would ease their anxiety.

"I'm sure that would mean a whole world of difference."

Symptoms of tuberculosis include persistent cough, chest pain, fever, fatigue and loss of appetite.

If caught early enough, tuberculosis can be treated and cured.

With files from Labrador Morning