Important facts about TB

It is important to be aware of important facts concerning TB in order to dispel myths about the disease and combat the fear associated with it.

TB is not spread through simple contact. Handshakes, shared utensils, hugs, touching, kisses, or shared drinks or objects will not spread the disease. TB spreads through the air, when a person with active TB coughs or sneezes. It can also spread merely through laughing, shouting, speaking, singing or breathing. However, a person must remain for several hours in the same closed room as someone with active TB in order to be at risk of being infected. Microdroplets contaminated with TB microbes can spread the disease to those in close contact with a contagious person.

Tuberculosis can be treated in Nunavik. Persons with active TB requiring specialized care may be transferred to a hospital in Montréal, but such cases are rather unusual. Most cases will require hospitalization at the Inuulitsivik Health Centre in Puvirnituq or the Tulattavik Health Centre in Kuujjuaq, as well as isolation for approximately two weeks. The more serious the disease, the longer the period of contagiosity and the longer the hospitalization. Once a patient with tuberculosis is no longer contagious, he or she can leave the hospital. However, he or she must continue to take the medication for several months in order to complete the treatment.

Anyone can be infected with TB. Persons infected with active TB need all the support possible from their family members, friends and the entire community. It is important to know that a person infected with active TB who no longer needs to be hospitalized and who continues to take the necessary medication is no longer contagious and no longer represents any risk to others. He or she must be encouraged to take the medication during the six to nine months of treatment. Stigmatization of persons with TB is harmful not only to those individuals but also to the entire community. It is important to avoid criticizing persons with TB; instead, we should encourage them to complete their treatment and follow the nurse’s recommendations.

Much effort is being invested to eliminate TB in Nunavik. We are launching a new step in the fight against TB. Nunavik intends to use its part of the recently announced federal funding of $27.5 M to pursue its objective vigorously of eliminating TB in the region. With the support of the Government of Québec, Nunavik has undertaken a wide-scale plan of action aimed at ending the spread of TB and vanquishing it once and for all. The additional funding will help in mobilizing the communities and equipping them with the medical technologies and expertise necessary to a sustained and permanent effort to eliminate all new cases of active TB, and this perhaps by the end of the next decade. Concurrently, more efforts will be required to tackle the social causes at the root of the TB outbreaks in Nunavik, such as overcrowded housing, food insecurity and smoking.