Constance Lake First Nation confirms 12 cases of blastomycosis, more than 100 under investigation

Constance Lake

Constance Lake First Nation in northern Ontario has confirmed 12 cases of a lung infection typically caused by fungus and says more than 100 cases are under investigation.

Chief Ramona Sutherland shared the latest figures about the blastomycosis outbreak in a virtual update Tuesday evening.

Sutherland said there are 12 people who are confirmed to have the lung infection and there are nine people in hospital with probable cases.

Another 119 people are under investigation for the infection, which Sutherland clarified means that they have symptoms of blastomycosis, such as a cough, fever, chills, fatigue and/or difficulty breathing.

She encouraged people to continue to get checked out at the hospital in Hearst, Ont., if they are experiencing any symptoms.

Constance Lake First Nation, a community of over 900 residents, declared a state of emergency on Nov. 22 after probable cases of blastomycosis and three deaths came to light.

Blastomycosis is typically caused by a fungus that grows in moist soil, leaves and rotting wood.

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.”

On Nov. 23, 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.

Sutherland said the search for the source of the infection is ongoing.

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.

Constance Lake is located about 500 km northeast of Thunder Bay

With files from the Canadian Press.