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Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Even a girl in Nunavut: MRSA infections

MRSA is a problem everywhere; it even reaches into Nunavut, in northern Canada, west of Greenland.

Dr. Isaac Sobol, Nunavut's chief medical officer, who recently returned from Arviat, would not confirm any deaths due to MRSA in the community. But a reliable source told Nunatsiaq News that the superbug had killed a girl somewhere in Nunavut.

Dr. Sobol did say there are "several" other cases of MRSA in Nunavut, in various communities, although he did not want to say which ones.

MRSA has been widespread in Canadian hospitals since 1981. Community-acquired MRSA has also cropped up in aboriginal communities in the prairies over the past decade.

Dr. Sobol said a couple of Nunavut's MRSA cases have been linked to infection from hospital stays. However, MRSA has also struck Nunavummiut who have never been to a hospital.

In communities, most of the transmission appears to be from people with active MRSA skin infections. Studies show First Nations and Inuit are six times more likely to get MRSA at home because MRSA spreads easily in overcrowded living situations.

MRSA can be spread by direct contact such as kissing, sneezing or indirect contact, such as touching a surface an infected person has touched.

Dr. Sobol said Nunavut is taking steps to contain MRSA in the affected communities. He's prepared to ask stores in Nunavut to stock and promote the sale of hand sanitizers at reasonable prices. But containing the spread of MRSA may be difficult in places such as Arviat where there is acute overcrowding in most homes.

Advice to people in crowded homes: Don't share toothbrushes and face towels.

Read another of our grim MRSA stories, or read Jane George's source story in the Sept. 21 Nunatsiaq News.

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