9 children in Gjoa Haven diagnosed with respiratory virus

High-risk children encouraged to receive palivizumab antibodies through Nunavut

An increase in respiratory syncytial virus cases in Gjoa Haven has advised the area’s health department that drugs are available. (File photo)


Madalyn Howitt

Residents of Gjoa Haven are being informed of an increase in cases of respiratory syncytial virus in the community.

Nine children there have confirmed RSV infections, Nunavut Health Department spokesman Danarae Sommerville said in a news release on Friday.

RSV causes infections of the lungs and respiratory tract and is the most common cause of lower respiratory tract disease in young children worldwide, according to Health Canada.

Palivizumab — a drug that contains antibodies and is given by injection — is available throughout Nunavut, Sommerville said.

To ensure that children have the best possible protection against serious illness due to RSV, it is recommended that the following groups receive palivizumab:

  • Premature babies born at 35 weeks or less and who are six months or younger;
  • Children under 12 months of age who have premature lung disease (CLD) and who require ongoing supplemental oxygen and/or medical therapy, such as diuretics, bronchodilators, or steroids;
  • Children under 12 months of age with hemodynamically significant congenital heart disease who require supplemental oxygen and/or ongoing medical therapy, such as diuretics, bronchodilators, or steroids;
  • Children under 24 months of age who have bronchopulmonary dysplasia/CLD who require ongoing supplemental oxygen or who have been weaned from supplemental oxygen in the past three months;
  • Children under 24 months of age with immune deficiencies, Down syndrome, cystic fibrosis, upper airway obstruction, or any chronic lung disease other than CLD, only if they are on oxygen at home, have been hospitalized for a long time for severe lung disease, or are severely immunocompromised.

Infants in Nunavut are believed to be at high risk for RSV infections. In December 2021, babies in Nunavut were given palivizumab a month earlier than usual due to cases of the virus spreading around the world.

Somerville said Nunavummiut can reduce the risk of respiratory infections by keeping surfaces clean, wearing a mask, keeping physical distance, staying home when sick, washing hands often, and coughing and sneezing into their elbows.

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