The Northern Inter Tribal Health Authority (NITHA) is talking about the tuberculosis (TB) situation in the north.

The health authority is working to combat outbreaks in four of their communities. These outbreaks were declared in Oct. 2021, Feb, 2022 and April 2023. NITHA Medical Health Officer Dr. Nnamdi Ndubuka told MBC Radio News active case numbers are going in the right direction overall.

“The TB situation in the north with regards to the outbreaks have really decreased quite significantly in terms of number of new cases,” he said.

The NITHA Medical Health Officer added while some impacted communities have seen some new cases reported they are not linked to the original outbreaks. Ndubuka declined to disclose the specific communities which have been dealing with outbreaks. However in Feb 2022 an outbreak was reported in Pelican Narrows, while in Oct of 2021 an outbreak was declared in both Black Lake and Fond-du-Lac.

When it comes to why the active number of cases has been going down, Ndubuka credits a number of factors, including collaboration between NITHA and its partner agencies, the Saskatchewan Health Authority and Indigenous Services Canada (ISC). He as well credits work done by local leadership and those delivering services on the frontlines.

“The health teams in the community that have been the boots on the ground, the TB workers, the TB nurses who have engaged fairly seamless contact tracing investigations,” said Ndubuka.

NITHA’s battle against TB has also been helped by having access to some new types of medical equipment. Specifically Ndubuka said portable x-ray machines have been helpful for healthcare workers in diagnosing people. He explained the portable x-ray machines have been a game changer in allowing for quicker diagnoses and made life easier for patients.

“For some communities you have to drive several hundred kilometers or even take a flight out of there to go get a chest x-ray,” he said.

While the numbers have been trending in the right direction for awhile Ndubuka said it is too early to put a firm date on when the three outbreaks will be considered over. He does however expect such an announcement to be coming in the near future.

To battle against TB NITHA is also looking to try to educate people in their communities about the virus. Ndubuka said they will be looking to use the upcoming World Tuberculosis Day on March 24 to help with the effort.

“What the signs and symptoms are and what an individual can do when they suspect that they might have been exposed to someone who has TB,” he said.

When it comes to dealing with TB in the long term Ndubuka, explained dealing with larger issues like overcrowded and poor quality housing in the north need to be talked about as these conditions allow for the virus to develop and spread amongst the population.

“It’s something that we’re continuing to advocate on to improve those situations on reserve,” he said.

(Top Photo: NITHA Medical Health Officer Dr. Nnamdi Ndubuka. Photo courtesy of Saskatchewan Medical Association.)