Since 1992, the Nunavik Trichinosis Prevention Program (NTPP) has been run by Makivik’s Nunavik Research Centre.
Trichinosis in Nunavik is usually associated with eating uncooked walrus meat and can cause severe health effects including fever, abdominal discomfort, potentially diarrhea and vomiting, skin rash, face swelling and muscle pain. These symptoms can appear 10-14 days after being infected but can also present from as early as three days to as long as 30 days after eating infected meat.
The NTTP requires the captain of the hunting boat and the municipality’s Coordinator of the TPP properly tag the butchered meat and collect samples for testing, including removing the entire tongue of the animal (including the base). The samples have to be sent in a cooler with icepacks on the first flight to Kuujjuaq, where the NRC has its testing lab.
Proper tagging and quarantining of walrus meat until after testing are essential to keep Nunavimmiut safe from the parasitic disease. Here are the technical guidelines for the program.
These guidelines were prepared jointly by the Hunter Support Program of the Kativik Regional Government (KRG), the Nunavik Research Centre (NRC) of Makivik Corporation and the Public Health Department of the Nunavik Regional Board of Health and Social Services (NRBHSS). They are intended to help the municipalities of Nunavik ensure access to Trichinella-free walrus meat when the meat is to be eaten uncooked.
Why? To make it possible to trace and deal with of all pieces of an infected walrus in case the test for Trichinella (parasite) turns out positive. If the animals are not correctly tagged, they cannot be tested.
How? Use a meat skewer to attach a tag (provided by the NRC) to every piece of the butchered carcass, including the heart and liver (ie. if the carcass is cut up into 25 pieces, you will need 25 tags). Each bag contains sufficient tags for ONE walrus. The tags are labelled with the name of the community, the walrus number, the piece number and the harvesting date (year/month). Fill the walrus hunting record sheet to report and document the number of harvested animals, their sex and age (pup, juvenile or adults) and the number of butchered pieces.
Do not use the tags for one animal on another carcass. Unused tags should be thrown out to avoid confusion.
Who? The captain of the boat and the co-ordinator of the Trichinosis Prevention Program are responsible for making sure that all the pieces from the carcass are correctly tagged. The CTPP is a hunter designated by the municipality to co-ordinate and implement the program. The NRC provides training to the CTPP in how to implement the program.
Why? There are specific muscles that are known to show high levels of the parasite in an infected animal. In walrus, the tongue is the best muscle which concentrates the parasite. The tongue must be tested in order to certify the whole carcass free of the parasite.
How? TAKE THE ENTIRE TONGUE (INCLUDING THE BASE).
Place the tongue in an individually labelled bag. Each bag is labelled with the name of the community, the walrus number and the harvesting date of the kill (year/month).
Who? The CTPP or a hunter trained by the CTPP.
Samples should be kept cool (2-4° C) on board. In the community, samples should be stored in a cooler, with icepacks, until they are shipped out for testing.
The CTPP make sure that the samples will be sent in a cooler with icepacks on the FIRST FLIGHT to Kuujjuaq, to the Nunavik Research Centre at the address below:
Nunavik Research Centre P.O. Box 179
Advise NRC staff of the arrival of the samples, by fax (819-964-2230) or by telephone (819-964-2951), giving the flight number and the waybill number.
Why? This is a necessary precaution to prevent the public from eating potentially infected walrus meat. Distribution of the meat before knowing the test results could lead to the loss of infected meat.
How? Do not distribute any meat to anyone anywhere until you receive instruction from the mayor or the CTPP.
The meat should be safely stored in a cool place until the CTPP is informed of the test results. These results will be communicated to the CTPP within 48 hours of the samples arriving at the NRC.
The NRC will communicate the results directly to the Public Health Department, which will immediately inform the mayor and the CTPP. Based on these results, the Public Health Department will provide recommendations on how the meat can be safely consumed.