TIMMINS, ONT. – Constance Lake First Nation, located in northern Ontario, declared a state of emergency this week following a suspected outbreak of a lung infection known as blastomycosis.
Nine possible cases are being treated in hospitals around Ontario and 12 are being monitored in the community.
The three recent deaths may be linked to the outbreak, but that has yet to be confirmed.
Blast is an infection caused by a fungus found in soil, damp wood, or mold. Disease that enters the lungs 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 airlifted to hospitals in different cities.
Some of them were taken to Sudbury, such as Amanda Lennox, who was admitted to the ICU.
Unable to speak to CTV Northern Ontario due to difficulty breathing, she instead wrote a statement via Facebook.
She said: “I really felt like time was running out because of how bad my pneumonia was. “My nephew is also in the ICU here, facing me in worse condition. I’m fighting him here until we both get home safely.”
Blastomycosis symptoms usually take several weeks to appear, and because the disease is not contagious, one expert said the sudden increase in cases could indicate simultaneous exposure to large numbers of the type. this mushroom.
Dr. Anna Banerji, an infectious disease specialist at the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health, told CTV News.
Constance Lake First country director Romana Sutherland said government investigators are currently on site trying to trace the source of the outbreak, but much more is needed to help quell it.
“Having just two or three children is not enough for the severity of this outbreak,” she said. “We really need to rein in this issue.”
A questionnaire is being distributed to the public to help determine 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 Chief Council and other partners to address the community’s needs.
Health Ontario said it is assisting with patient transfers from the hospital in Hearst and an environmental health investigation is underway, with samples being sent to a laboratory in Toronto.
With files from Darren MacDonald and Heather Butts of CTV News, and The Canadian Press