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Nunavut communities hit by flu outbreaks

Several Nunavut communities have been hit hard by influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) outbreaks in recent months, prompting health officials to urge people to get their flu shots.

Nunavut flu outbreaks

11 years ago
Duration 1:28
Several Nunavut communities hit by flu outbreaks in recent months. 1:28

Several Nunavut communities have been hit hard by influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) outbreaks in recent months, prompting health officials to urge people to get their flu shots.

The territory has confirmed cases of H3N2 and H1N1 influenza and RSV, a contagious respiratory illness that especially affects infants. Communities like Sanikiluaq and Arviat were especially affected recently.

In December and early January, 52 people who fell ill in Sanikiluaq — a community of about 750 — were flown to Winnipeg for medical treatment, according to health officials.

"The situation in Sanikiluaq has settled. The particular flu-like symptoms during the fall, early winter … impacted mostly the very young and senior people who have less [of] a strong immunity," Nunavut Health Minister Tagak Curley said in the legislature this week.

Extra staff sent to Igloolik

Extra medical staff have been sent to Igloolik to deal with a flu outbreak going on there.

Dr. Isaac Sobol, Nunavut's chief medical officer, said extra staff have been sent to Igloolik to support the existing medical staff there. ((CBC))

Nunavut chief medical officer Dr. Isaac Sobol said it's too early to tell whether influenza or RSV caused the deaths of two infants in Igloolik in the past two weeks.

"We'll just have to wait and see once the autopsy results are finalized," Sobol told CBC News on Friday.

"One thing we do know, though, is it's a devastating situation for any family to have a young child pass away, and we're really feeling very deep sympathy with those families."

In the wake of the deaths, the infants' grieving families have publicly questioned how well Nunavut's health-care system handles cases of sick infants.

Sobol said an additional doctor and nurse are in Igloolik to help the nurses at the local health centre.

"There was a request from the community that a doctor be there," Sobol said. "Because it has been a stressful time for the nurses, we thought that a doctor being up there could provide additional support and assistance."

Sobol said medical staff in Arviat also had a difficult time last week, but he said things have since quieted down and the local health centre has a full complement of staff now.

The Department of Health has issued an advisory urging people in Nunavut to get vaccinated. The flu shot is still being offered at health centres across the territory.

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