Timmins, Ont. – Constance Lake First Nation in northern Ontario declared a state of emergency this week following a suspected outbreak of a lung infection called blastomycosis.
Nine probable cases are being treated in hospitals around Ontario and 12 people are being monitored within the community.
The three recent deaths could be linked to the outbreak, but this is yet to be confirmed.
- Blastomycosis outbreak in northern Ontario: what you need to know
Blastomycosis is an infection caused by a fungus found in soil, wet wood or mold. The disease travels to the lungs and can cause pneumonia and spread to other parts of the body.
Patients from Constance Lake First Nation, located about 40 kilometers west of Hearst, are being taken to hospitals in various cities.
Some of them have been taken to Sudbury, such as Amanda Lennox, who was admitted to the ICU.
Unable to speak to Granthshala Northern Ontario due to breathing problems, she wrote a statement via Facebook instead.
“I honestly felt like my time was up at some point because of how bad my pneumonia was,” she said. “My nephew is also here in the ICU across the hall, my condition is bad. I am here physically fighting with him until it is safe for both of us to go home.”
Blastomycosis symptoms often take weeks to appear, and since the disease is not contagious, one expert says a sudden increase in cases may indicate a large, simultaneous exposure to the fungus.
“Usually, outbreaks happen when there is a bunch of people and they are carrying wood and there is blastomycosis and they are all exposed at the same time or at the same time,” said Dr. Anna Banerjee, an infectious The pathologist at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health told Granthshala News.
Romana Sutherland, head of the Constance Lake First Nation, says government investigators are currently attempting to trace the source of the outbreak, but more are needed to help seal it
“Just having two or three is not enough for the severity of this outbreak,” she said. “We really need to control this problem.”
A questionnaire is being distributed to residents to help pinpoint the source of the outbreak.
Indigenous Services Canada says it is working directly with Sutherland, the Porcupine Public Health Unit, the Government of Ontario, the Matawa Chiefs Council and other partners to address community needs.
Ontario’s health ministry says it is supporting patient transfers from the hospital in Hearst and an environmental health check is underway, with samples being sent to a laboratory in Toronto.
With files from Darren McDonald and Heather Butts of Granthshala News and The Canadian Press