The chief of Constance Lake First Nation confirmed in a live video with community members that two individuals have died of blastomycosis infection.
“Very unfortunate that two autopsies confirmed blastomycosis,” said Constance Lake First Nation Chief Ramona Sutherland in a Facebook Live call with her community Friday evening.
Three people from the community, located northwest of Timmins, have died since the outbreak was declared, but autopsy results from the third case have not yet been confirmed.
A spokesperson for the Office of the Chief Coroner of Ontario told CBC News the coroner won’t confirm individual death investigations.
The First Nation’s chief and council declared a state of emergency on Nov. 22, due to the outbreak in the community.
As of last week, 13 people from the community were treated in hospitals across Ontario for probable blastomycosis.
Blastomycosisis is a lung infection caused by a fungus called blastomyces. Symptoms include a fever, cough, night sweats, chest pain, fatigue and muscle aches.
Severe cases can spread from the lungs to other parts of the body, such as the skin, bones and joints, and the central nervous system.
The fungus is generally found in soil and rotting wood in certain parts of North America, said Dr. Anna Banerji, an infectious disease specialist with the University of Toronto’s Dalla Lana School of Public Health.
Banerji said if soil or wood with the fungus is disturbed, a person or animal might inhale the spores as they spread through the air.
She said it can take anywhere from a few weeks to several months for the spores to grow in the lungs and for a person to present symptoms.
“Some people have no symptoms,” Banerji said. “They can be asymptomatic or it can grow and cause a pneumonia. It’s often misdiagnosed as a pneumonia.”
Banerji said if blastomycosis is diagnosed early, it can be treated with an antifungal.