TB outbreak continues in Northern Quebec community

Health officials trying to find undiagnosed cases, say social factors contributing to disease's spread in Kangiqsualujjuaq, Nunavik.

Health experts say social factors contributing to disease's spread

Kangiqsualujjuaq is located in Nunavik, in northern Quebec. About 900 people live in the community. (Google)

The number of active tuberculosis cases continues to climb in a northern Quebec community, where almost eight per cent of the population has been infected.

Provincial and federal health officials are teaming up to tackle the outbreak in Kangiqsualujjuaq, Nunavik.

The number of active TB cases in the remote community of fewer than 900 people has doubled over the past two months, up to 68.

"The transmission has been ongoing for quite a few months," said Serge Dery of Nunavik's Health Board.

He said there's a plan to fight the infection.

"A mass intervention that will try to find out other active cases that are.. in the community but not yet reported."

Dery said babies in Nunavik will receive the BCG vaccine when it becomes available. There is no BCG right now in Canada after the manufacturer recalled all existing stock because of worries over quality.

The Public Health Agency of Canada stepped in to help with the outbreak by providing two epidemiologists to trace the spread of the disease.

One traveled to the community in May and has already filed reports to the province of Quebec.

The agency said a senior official who specializes in TB is helping the community with technical support and expertise.

But medical treatment alone won't eliminate TB in the region.

Dr. Patrick Tang, a medical microbiologist at the British Columbia Centre for Disease Control, said TB can be controlled by finding active cases of the disease, then reaching out to friends and family who may be infected.

"The close contacts of any active case have anywhere around a 30 per cent likelihood of catching the disease," he said.

Tang said different levels of government will have to work with communities to fix the social causes of tuberculosis.

He said issues like overcrowded housing and poor ventilation contribute to high rates of TB in certain Canadian populations.

"A lot of these problems can be more difficult to fix then simply doing a skin test on a person and then giving them antibiotics. These are social problems," he said.