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article imagePotentially dangerous parasite found in Canada's far North

By Karen Graham     Apr 28, 2016 in Health
Scientists from the Research Institute of the McGill University Health Center have released their finding on an outbreak of intestinal illnesses in 10 indigenous villages between April 2013 and 2014 in Canada's far North.
The culprit causing the intestinal illnesses is a parasite called Cryptosporidium hominis and is considered potentially dangerous, especially to young children.
Along with C. parvum, C. hominis are the two most medically important parasites. While C. parvum has a broad host range, C. hominis is exclusively a parasite of humans. The parasite is found worldwide, more so in developing countries and in places where food and water sanitation is lacking.
According to CTV News, the researchers say the parasitic infection causes a disease called Cryptosporidiosis or simply “crypto.” The parasite can wreak havoc in humans, causing diarrhea, cramps, and vomiting that may last for weeks. Crypto can also be fatal to young children and those with weakened immune systems.
The study's senior author, Dr. Cédric Yansouni, the associate director of the J.D. MacLean Center for Tropical Diseases at MUHC, is very concerned about the findings, not only because it has been discovered in the far North within the Arctic climate zones, but also because of the long-term implications on the health of the children in Nunavik as well as in nearby Nunavut.
Nunavik makes up the northern third of Quebec while Nunavut is Canada's newest territory. Both lie within the Arctic and subarctic climate zones. The two regions are home to about 49,000 people.
“We are being particularly vigilant because it is known in low-income countries that repeated Cryptosporidium infections can cause growth delays and difficulty at school in children,” Dr. Yansouni said in a statement, according to Canada News.
“In the Nunavik outbreak, children under the age of five were the group most affected by the infection," he added. There is a treatment for Cryptosporidiosis that is readily available in countries where the parasite in common, but in Canada it is only available through a special access program.
Cryptosporidium infections are an uncommon occurrence in Canada. In 2001, 7,000 residents of North Battleford, Saskatchewan became ill after the parasite entered the water supply during routine maintenance of a chemical filter.
In 1997, an outbreak occurred at Shoal Lake 40 First Nation, which straddles the Ontario-Manitoba boundary. Shoal Lake 40 has been under a "boil water" advisory since 1997, the longest advisory in Canadian history.
More about cryptosporidium, intestinal parasite, developmental delays, Far north, tropical disease
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