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TB outbreak in Nain ongoing

Dr. Gabe Woollam, Labrador-Grenfell Health's vice president of medical services, speaking at a community meeting held in Nain on April 6.
Dr. Gabe Woollam, Labrador-Grenfell Health's vice president of medical services, speaking at a community meeting held in Nain on April 6. - Contributed

Over half of community has been screened

Three months after a tuberculosis outbreak started in Nain, Labrador Grenfell Health (LGH) and the Nunatsiavut government (NG) are still screening people in the community and making sure the correct information is getting to people.

Dr. Gabe Woollam with LGH said at this point they have 23 people on treatment for active tuberculosis.

“The majority of those are people with TB that are confirmed and some are people that are still waiting for some final tests to be confirmed that they have TB or to rule out other things,” he said. “So we’re treating them to be on the safe side. I think what that number speaks to is that our contact tracing and our screening is working and we’re picking up the active cases that are associated with our outbreak.”

He said at this point they have some kind of TB investigations and screening with over half of the people in the community and have recently broadened screening to a couple of groups LGH see as being higher risk.

“We’ve broadened the screening to include all the school children and to include all people in the community that have previously had diagnosis of TB that have been involved with us. So even if they’re not related to the outbreak we’ve screened all those people.”

Something Woollam said he hopes will be a big help is new treatment which will only require a once-a-week dose for 12 weeks. The previous course of treatment required twice as many doses a week and took nine months.

“We have enough trouble getting people to take antibiotics for a week,” Woollam said. “Much less a treatment for nine months. This new regime should have a big impact.”

Another tool they are using to fight this and a big help to the screening, Woollam said, is the x-ray machine that is currently in Nain on loan from the Federal Government’s National Emergency Strategic Stockpile.

He said having the x-ray machine in the community makes it a lot easier for people to get tested, as opposed to flying to Happy Valley-Goose Bay for the test.

“That’s made a real difference to the way we provide care. So far we have invited over 300 people for x-rays and completes about 250 x-rays in the community. We have another x-ray clinic upcoming on Monday (June 25).”

Sylvia Doody, director of health services with NG, said from a public health perspective they have been inviting all community members who are concerned about their health or if they have any symptoms associated with TB to contact them.

She said for the last two years they have been doing a TB campaign in the community, which has been helping in terms of heightening awareness around the disease.

“Our nurses also provide one on one education to people that come in for screening and testing,” she said. “We’ve already been doing that for over half the community. We’ve answered a lot of questions that people had. And also, just working with the local radio station there to get information out to community members and just to encourage people.”

Some of the information both LGH and NG are working to get out there is just how hard it is to catch TB.

Woollam said a person needs prolonged contact in a closed environment with somebody who actively coughing up or sneezing out TB. He said he has spoken to businesses who are concerned with doing business in Nain and wants to assure them there is no risk.

“There’s been issues with certain individuals or businesses that have concerns about the safety of doing business in Nain and we’ve provided education session to educate them on how safe it is to do business there. There’s no reason to change anything they are doing.”

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