The Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services was informed of suspected cases of Botulism (qassuniq) in Inukjuak, on March 22. An investigation revealed that the cases were associated with igunaq consumed during two feasts on March 18th and March 19th. More than 27 people may have been exposed at the feasts and afterward from food later consumed at home. There may still be contaminated igunaq in the community and in situations like this, the meat from that source should be destroyed. The best way to destroy the contaminated meat would be to burn it. It’s important to identify all the meat from the suspected igunaq and be sure it’s destroyed. Before eating walrus meat, people should verify where it came from and make sure that it’s not from the same source that was given at the feasts.

Botulism (qassuniq) is a severe disease that can lead to death. There is no way of cleaning the contaminated meat and it must be destroyed. People who think they might have symptoms of botulism (qassuniq) should seek medical evaluation at their local CLSC (Nursing Station). Symptoms may include nausea, vomiting, weakness, dry mouth, dyspnea (difficulty breathing), blurred vision and dysphonia/dysarthria (voice or speech disorder).

A few suspected cases of botulism (qassuniq) occur each year in Nunavik. Keeping sea mammal products at a cold temperature (below 4°C) at all times is a preventive measure. Freezing products and waiting for the cooler days of fall is recommended for making igunaq safely.