Traditionally prepared walrus meat connected to botulism patients

Traditionally prepared walrus meat connected to botulism patients

by Sue Jones
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The Nunavik Regional Board of Health is warning against eating certain walrus meat after people have reported botulism poisoning.

The patients are located in Inukjuak and reported eating igunaq at traditional feasts on March 18 and 19. It sometimes takes 10 days for signs of the poisoning to develop.

“More than 27 people may have been exposed at the feasts and afterward from food later consumed at home,” according to the health board warning. 

“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.”

About botulism

While a variety of illnesses can result from eating under-processed food, one of the most dangerous is botulism poisoning. Untreated, botulism can paralyze the muscles needed for breathing, resulting in sudden death.

Anyone who has eaten any igunaq and developed signs of botulism poisoning should immediately seek medical attention, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).

“In foodborne botulism, symptoms generally begin 18 to 36 hours after eating contaminated food. However, symptoms can begin as soon as 6 hours after or up to 10 days later,” according to the CDC website.

The symptoms of botulism may include some of all of the following: double vision, blurred vision, drooping eyelids, slurred speech, difficulty swallowing, difficulty breathing, a thick-feeling tongue, dry mouth, and muscle weakness. People with botulism poisoning may not show all of these symptoms at once.

These symptoms result from muscle paralysis caused by the toxin. If untreated, the disease may progress, and symptoms may worsen to cause paralysis of specific muscles, including those used in breathing and those in the arms, legs, and the body from the neck to the pelvis area.

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