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Hundreds of Antibiotic-resistant bacteria cases in Canada's Northwest Territories

CBC NewsEye on the Arctic

A superbug skin infection has been spreading in the Northwest Territories since January.

By August, there were 462 recorded cases of MRSA, which is the highest it has ever been in the territory.

The infection, which is otherwise known as methicillin-resistant staphylococcus aureus, is resistant to some antibiotics.

"The complication in the health care system is that we have to use different antibiotics that are more costly and also have more side effects. And if the bacteria become resistant to those antibiotics than we would have very little left to treat," said Dr. Dr. André Corriveau, the N.W.T.'s chief public health officer.

Corriveau is alarmed that the infection is becoming more common among babies and toddlers, given the fact that children at that age are more susceptible to more severe infections.

The rates are highest in the Tlicho and Beaufort Delta regions.

MRSA is a bacteria which lives on the skin or in the nose of healthy people. It can cause skin and soft tissue infections, and can also cause severe invasive infections such as pneumonia.

The infection also spreads easily between people.

Corriveau said cuts and other skin breaks should be promptly cleaned and disinfected, and people should consult with a health care provider if there is any sign of infection.

This story is posted on Alaska Dispatch as part of Eye on the Arctic, a collaborative partnership between public and private circumpolar media organizations.