Health Canada focuses on prevention, treatment on World Tuberculosis Day

The international community marked World Tuberculosis (TB) day Friday, and Health Canada took the opportunity to spread awareness about the breadth of the problem in northern Saskatchewan.

Every year, 10 million people are diagnosed with TB worldwide. Of those, about 1.8 million die, and HIV makes the fight even more complicated.

While the rate of TB infection in Canada is significantly lower than in countries such as India or Indonesia, the highest provincial rates are seen in Saskatchewan and Manitoba.

Here in Saskatchewan, about 60-70 cases are diagnosed each year. Of those more than 71 per cent are diagnosed in just six per cent of the province’s population – Indigenous people living on reserves in the north.

The second group most susceptible to TB is the recent immigrant population. Tuberculosis is an infection disease caused by the bacterium Mycobacterium tuberculosis. It generally affects the lungs, but can also affect other parts of the body. It’s an airborne disease, with symptoms including a chronic cough lasting more than two weeks with blood in coughed-up mucus, fever, night sweats and weight loss. If untreated, it can lead to death.

“All of those are pretty alarming symptoms,” said Dr. Ibrahim Khan, Health Canada Medical Health Officer for the First Nations and Inuit Health Branch.

Khan spoke to the Herald about the prevention and treatment options Health Canada funds throughout the province’s north.