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Blastomycosis case numbers 'very concerning', said Indigenous Services Canada

The department's mobilizing 'all efforts to support the community', which declared a state of emergency yesterday
2021-11-21 Ramona Sutherland SS
Constance Lake First Nation Chief Ramona Sutherland gives an update on the blastomychosis situation in the community.

With the federal government on the ground helping Constance Lake First Nation as it deals with a blastomycosis outbreak, the local MPP is calling on the province to support the community as well.

Yesterday, a state of emergency was declared because of the outbreak of the lung infection caused by a fungus found in soil, wet wood or mould. The source of the fungus is not known and is being investigated.

Indigenous Services Canada arrived in the community near Hearst today. As of Nov. 21, it reports there were nine probable cases of blastomycosis and eight people under investigation for blastomycosis. 

Three people also recently died. It’s not confirmed if it was due to the infection but it’s “very likely”, said Chief Ramona Sutherland in an interview yesterday. People have also been transferred to hospitals in Sault Ste. Marie, Ottawa, Sudbury, North Bay and Timmins.

"Blastomycosis is not contagious, and it is not transmitted from person to person, nor between animals and humans. That said, the number of cases is very concerning and the department is mobilizing all efforts to support the community," said ISC in an update on the situation.

The federal department says it's working with Sutherland, the Porcupine Health Unit, the Ontario Ministry of Health, the Matawa Chiefs Council and other partners to address the community's needs. 

The supports ISC says are currently in place are:

  • The Porcupine Health Unit and the Matawa Tribal Council are inspecting sites to determine the source of the outbreak. Sutherland has said there are at least 10 spots identified in the community. The Public Health Agency of Canada also mobilized a field epidemiologist to help help with the investigation on Nov. 21, with the work beginning on over the weekend.
  • ISC is working with a Toronto-based laboratory that specializes in mould and fungi to send a PhD mycologist to collect samples from the areas identified by community leadership. Sporomterics is analyzing the samples collected on Nov. 22 and 23 by the PHU and Matawa Tribal Council.
  • The Hearst hospital's operating room is currently closed to allow for probable cases and people who are under investigation for blastomycosis to be observed. Hôpital Notre-Dame Hospital also has a stock of anti-fungals for treatment.
  • The province is providing surge acute care support for the hospital.
  • ISC is assessing the need for more surge nursing support.

"Indigenous Services Canada (ISC) is working with partners who provide mental wellness supports to the community to secure additional mental health and crisis response supports if requested by the community," reads the update.

"The Province of Ontario is expediting relevant testing to ensure results are available as soon as possible."

Mushkegowuk-James Bay MPP Guy Bourgoin has released a statement calling for more support from province.

“Doug Ford must support the community of Constance Lake with the support and resources it needs now to deal with this frightening illness. People have died and more are sick," reads Bougoin's statement.

"The community needs to know that the provincial government will take immediate action to ensure that people who are ill are getting urgent medical care, and that everyone is being moved into safe accommodations so that this illness doesn’t spread to more people in the community. There is no time to delay. The Ford government must act now to keep families in Constance Lake safe.”

Maija Hoggett

About the Author: Maija Hoggett

Maija Hoggett is an experienced journalist who covers Timmins and area
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