Sores showing up on Igloolik children likely not caused by mould, Nunavut's top doctor says

Health officials in Nunavut are investigating an outbreak of sores in children in Igloolik — but say it's likely caused by something other than mould showing up in houses.

Dr. Mike Patterson says cause for sores is complex, likely a bacterial or viral infection

Health officials in Nunavut are exploring the cause of a higher than normal number of sores being reported on children in the community. (Nick Murray/CBC)

Health officials in Nunavut are investigating an outbreak of sores in children in Igloolik — but say it's likely caused by something other than mould showing up in houses.

People living in the community's public housing units have been noticing the sores on their children for months and say they suspect black mould they've found in their units is the cause.

But the cause for the sores is likely more complicated, probably a bacterial or viral infection spreading between people in the community, explained Dr. Mike Patterson, Nunavut's acting chief medical health officer.

"We do know there's been concern about mould, but mould in houses wouldn't typically cause a sudden cluster or outbreak of skin sores," Patterson said.

"My suspicion is that many of these cases or even most of them aren't coming from mould, but are coming from somewhere else."

"There probably is more than one cause for the sores that are being reported," Patterson said. "There could be two or three or more infections in Igloolik right now. Sometimes it's very difficult to identify the cause of these sores, because it can be difficult to get a reliable swab to culture them. Especially if we don't see them at the right stage," he said.  

Rachel Kappianaq, 8, developed an irritation on her fingers and palms that makes it painful to even hold a piece of paper. She's one of several children suffering from an outbreak of sores in the community. (Devi Lockwood)
 

The sores can spread between people through skin-to-skin contact, and anyone who's seen sores on their or their children's bodies should avoid contact with open sores.

At this point, people should be concerned, but not overly worried, he said.  

"If there's a child in the family with open sores, they ideally shouldn't share baths, or bath water with other children. Even their towels should be kept separate to avoid spreading it," he said.

"If the sore is draining, people should keep it covered or stay away from others if they can't keep it covered."

Patterson recommends everyone who's noticed sores on themselves or their children should go to the health centre to be checked out.

An environmental health officer will be in Igloolik shortly and will be looking into next steps and some of the children with sores have already been referred to see the physician during the doctor's next visit to Igloolik as well.

With files from Salome Avva