Constance Lake declares state of emergency after 3 die of mysterious lung infection

lung infection

Three people have died in Constance Lake First Nation in northern Ontario of a lung infection suspected to be blastomycosis.

On Monday, Chief Ramona Sutherland declared a state of emergency.

“As we deal with this tremendous loss and community crisis, we require additional services to assist our people during this time of hardship,“ Sutherland said in a release Thursday.

“It is of the utmost importance that we find the origin of these recent cases of blastomycosis so that we can prevent the loss of additional lives of our community members and treat the affected areas.”

Sutherland said her northwestern Ontario community needed emergency housing inspections, additional site assessments, grief and mental health counselling and support for family members of sick individuals.

“Due to our low standard of living, we need these resources IMMEDIATELY. We need to work closely and hold Federal and Provincial Governments accountable during this time of crisis and we ask our neighbouring communities and partners to help support us in our time of need,” she added in the release.

Blastomycosis is a lung infection typically caused by a fungus that grows in moist soil, leaves and rotting wood, and is spread when a person inhales small particles of the fungus into their lungs.

Symptoms can range from a mild cough that does not go away to serious breathing problems. Some people may not show any symptoms, while others may develop a long-term form of pneumonia.

According to Indigenous Services Canada (ISC), blastomycosis is “not contagious, and is not transmitted from person to person, nor between animal and humans.”

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Feds in Constance Lake First Nation investigating source of blastomycosis outbreak 

On Tuesday, the federal government said it contracted a Toronto-based laboratory “specializing in mould and fungi” to send a PHd mycologist to investigate the source of the outbreak. Also, the hospital in Hearst, Ont., has closed its operating room and is “setting up an observation unit for probable cases and persons under investigation” from the infection.

The investigation in the community started on Sunday.

Constance Lake is located about 500 km northeast of Thunder Bay and has a population of about 900 residents.

On top of the three deaths, there are 44 suspected cases (eight children) under investigation, according to the community and 16 people have been hospitalized.

Ontario’s Ministry of Health has said the province is working to help the community and is supporting patient transfers from the hospital in Hearst. It also said an environmental health investigation is underway, with samples being sent to a Public Health Ontario lab in Toronto.

Sutherland is encouraging residents to get their flu shots and go get checked out at the hospital if they have any symptoms, including a cough, difficulty breathing, fatigue, fever or chills.

The chief also noted that flyers will be delivered to residents to ensure the community has the latest information on the potential blastomycosis outbreak.

“Don’t lose hope. We’re working really hard. I pray that we will overcome this as soon, as soon, as soon as possible,” Sutherland said.