A First Nation in northern Ontario was working Tuesday to trace the source of a fungus suspected of causing lung infections in several residents.
The chief of Constance Lake First Nation said three recent deaths in the community may be linked to blastomycosis – although that has yet to be confirmed – while nine residents are thought to have the infection and 24 others are under investigation for it.
The First Nation declared a state of emergency on Monday, after cases came to light in recent days.
“This has never happened,” Sutherland said in a phone interview Tuesday afternoon.
“We declared the state of emergency so that we can have access to everything possible to hopefully find the source of this problem to contain it, limit its exposure or remediate something and help our people.”
Sutherland said nine people were being cared for in hospitals in various communities. At least one child was sent to a hospital in Ottawa on Monday, she said.
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 breathes in small particles of the fungus into their lungs. Symptoms range from a mild cough to serious breathing problems. Some people may not show any symptoms, while others may develop a long-term form of pneumonia.
Sutherland said there are at least 11 different places in the community where samples will be gathered to check for sources of the fungus.
She said the First Nation, which is located near Hearst, Ont, is looking into evacuation plans as a precaution but isn’t planning an evacuation just yet.
In the meantime, she encouraged community members to seek medical attention if they have any symptoms, including a cough, difficulty breathing, fatigue, a sore back, fever or chills.
Community members who have been tested for blastomycosis have also been tested for COVID-19 and, so far, everyone has tested negative for the virus, the chief noted.
The grand chief of the Nishnawbe Aski Nation, which represents 49 First Nations across northern Ontario, said his organization is “very concerned” with the situation in Constance Lake and called for the federal and provincial governments to help.
“We look to our federal and provincial Treaty partners to support Constance Lake with the resources they require to address this crisis including access to health care, testing, and mental health supports,” Grand Chief Derek Fox said in a written statement.
Indigenous Services Canada said it was working directly with Sutherland, the Porcupine Public Health Unit, the Ontario government, the Matawa Chiefs Council and other partners to “identify and address community needs.”
A representative from ISC arrived in the community on Tuesday to provide on-the-ground support “for as long as necessary,” the federal department said. It also noted that it’s assessing the need for additional nursing, mental health and crisis support.
The department added that a hospital in Hearst is setting up an observation unit for Constance Lake residents suspected of having blastomycosis. The hospital has a stock of anti-fungals for those who need treatment, it said.
Ontario’s Ministry of Health said the province was working to help the community and was supporting patient transfers from the hospital in Hearst. It also said an environmental health investigation was underway, with samples being sent to a Public Health Ontario lab in Toronto.
“We will continue to work in partnership with our federal, local and community partners to address the ongoing situation in Constance Lake First Nation,” the health ministry said.
This report by The Canadian Press was first published Nov. 23, 2021.
This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Facebook and Canadian Press News Fellowship.
Good morning, Greater Sudbury! Here are a few stories to start your day – Sudbury.com
Good morning, Greater Sudbury! Here are a few stories to start your day on this Saturday morning.
Rising case counts see Public Health Sudbury reinstate work-from-home rule as of Monday
Saying local COVID-19 case rates remain “unacceptably high,” Public Health Sudbury & Districts is reinstating work-from-home requirements as of Monday. Continued high COVID-19 case rates mean that the Public Health Sudbury & Districts area is among the top three most affected jurisdictions in Ontario, said a press release issued Friday. Local protective measures, including a reinstatement of capacity limits first issued on Nov. 8, have suppressed rapid growth in cases; however, case rates remain unacceptably high, threatening health and the health system, in-person learning, and local transition to a “reopened” community, said the health unit. PHSD said it is announcing “a measured and responsible approach to the current situation.” The medical officer of health is reinstating work-from-home requirements, revoked by the province on July 15, issuing strong recommendations for COVID-19 protections to area schools, businesses, and organizations, and enacting stricter measures for the follow up of contacts of cases of COVID-19. “We have carefully reviewed recent data and consulted with the province’s chief medical officer of health,” said Dr. Penny Sutcliffe, Medical Officer of Health with Public Health Sudbury & Districts. “Although school-based cases and household spread are currently driving our continued high case counts, cases continue to be reported among young adults, social settings, and workplaces. It is hard to find a setting that is not impacted. “With the widespread circulation of the virus in our community, our response also needs to be widespread, reducing mobility and face-to-face interactions overall. This is the purpose of the work-from-home Instructions. Further, every sector needs to do their part, voluntarily at this time, to pave the path to lower case rates and re-opening.” You can read the full Letter of Instruction here.
Variant prompts ban on travellers from southern Africa
Canada has banned visitors from southern Africa after the discovery of a new variant of concern in the region. The new variant, deemed Omicron, first emerged in South Africa and coincided with a steep rise in the number of COVID-19 cases in that region in recent weeks, according to the World Health Organization. The ban will apply to foreign nationals who transited through a list of seven countries in the last 14 days, including South Africa, Mozambique, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Lesotho, Namibia and eSwatini. Global Affairs is also issuing an advisory to discourage non-essential travel to South Africa and neighbouring countries. “We know very little about this variant right now,” Canada’s chief public health officer, Dr. Theresa Tam, said at a briefing Friday. The mutations that have been detected show the potential for greater transmissibility, she said, and she won’t be surprised to see cases crop up in Canada. “This variant has a large number of mutations, some of which are concerning,” the WHO wrote in a statement Friday. “Preliminary evidence suggests an increased risk of reinfection with this variant, as compared to other (variants of concern.)”
Sudbury leads Ontario in opioid death rates, but Ford’s more interested in a GTA road, Bigger says
When it comes to Greater Sudbury’s homelessness and opioid crises, neither Premier Doug Ford nor Health Minister Christine Elliott are picking up the phone. This, Mayor Brian Bigger said, has him feeling “ghosted.” “He refuses to talk and his ministers refuse to respond or provide funding that we need in our community,” he said. “This is really a sad state when there is no response.” Earlier this week, Bigger penned an open letter to the premier in which he requests the province’s support and affirms that he’s available to discuss matters at any time. “This is about the City of Greater Sudbury having the highest per-capita (opioid) death rate in the province … and not even getting the courtesy of a callback from the minister of health,” he told Sudbury.com. It’s not as though there isn’t any money available, Bigger said, noting that the province managed to find $6 billion to spend on Highway 413 in the Greater Toronto Area. “That’s just not acceptable,” he said, adding that the city has been pushing for the province’s help for the past two years.
Sudbury names new economic development lead
Sudbury has a new economic development lead. Meredith Armstrong, who has had a long tenure with the city, moved into the role of director of economic development, effective Nov. 19. She replaces Brett Williamson, who has left the position for a new opportunity outside the organization. “With her unique achievements and her well-established relationship with the Greater Sudbury Development Corporation (GSDC) board, Ms. Armstrong embodies all the qualities needed to continue to support the work of the GSDC board in her new role as director,” said Lisa Demmer, GSDC board chair, in a Nov. 25 news release. “I want to thank Mr. Williamson for his efforts and dedication as we worked together to position Greater Sudbury for ongoing economic recovery and success amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. I wish him all the best in the future.”
Salvation Army Christmas Kettles now in place around Sudbury
Salvation Army volunteers are back beside their kettles, and this year offering a chance to “tap” your donation to keep everyone safe. The kettles are in place across Sudbury and will be until December 10, and this year feature $5, $10, and $20 “taps” so that you can use your debit card, credit card or Google/Apple pay features to donate to the Salvation Army. The kettles will also be in place for cash donations at locations across Sudbury. Donations go to the Salvation Army food bank, and to fill out their annual Christmas Hampers. This year, they have 600 families signed up to receive a hamper filled with the makings of a Christmas dinner, including a turkey, as well as toys for any children. Their fundraising goal this year is $220,000 to cover the community’s needs. All of the money will stay in and be used to help people in Sudbury. They are still in desperate need of volunteers, however. Lyn Mullen of the Salvation Army told Sudbury.com that each year, there are 1,000 volunteer shifts to fill. “That’s a two hour shift, five times a day, at six locations until December,” said Mullen. “All the money stays in Sudbury and is used for all our family services, which includes our food bank and our Christmas hampers.” If you would like to volunteer and are double vaccinated, you can contact the Salvation Army at their email address, email@example.com, or at 705-673-5893 ext. 203.
Ontario still in fourth virus wave, likely to continue through winter, top doc says
Ontario’s rising COVID-19 infection curve is a continuation of the fourth wave that started earlier in September, and not the start of a fifth wave, the province’s top doctor said Thursday as he warned that the upward trend would continue. Chief medical officer of health Dr. Kieran Moore said case counts never got back to a low level despite a slight dip before steadily increasing again in late October. “We never declared the fourth wave over, this is simply a continuance,” Moore told reporters. “Sadly, all modelling would predict this would slowly, steadily rise and increase over the coming months, including January and February.” He said higher case counts were anticipated as people moved indoors in the cold weather, and asked people to remain cautious until the weather warms up in the spring and more people become eligible for third vaccine doses to protect against the “formidable foe” of COVID-19. “It just continues to want to spread and it won’t slow down again until we get outdoors in the springtime,” he said. “We do have a time period over the next four months that we’ll have to continue to be very, very vigilant.”
Winter weather will stick around this weekend
Expect a sunny day for your Saturday with winds of 15 km/h and a high of -9. That wind will mean a wind chill of -20 this morning and -12 this afternoon. The UV index today is one, or low. Tonight, expect increasing cloudiness and a low of -11. For Sunday, expect cloudy skies and slightly warmer temperatures. The afternoon temperature is expected to hit -6, with a 60-per-cent chance of flurries. Sunday night, the clouds will stick around and there is a 30-per-cent chance of flurries and a low of -10.
COVID-19 vaccine for kids: CHEO clinic kicks off this weekend – CTV News Ottawa
The push to quickly get jabs into young arms continues as kids in the capital rolled up their sleeves for their first COVID-19 vaccine.
Ottawa Public Health says about 1,200 doses were administered to children aged five to 11 on Friday, the first day of the city’s paediatric vaccination campaign.
This weekend is the start of CHEO’s vaccination clinic through the Kids Come First health team. That’s where Tracy Schulz’s son, Aiden, is getting his shot.
“They phone me Thursday and the appointment’s Sunday,” said Schulz. “It’s happening pretty quickly and I’m pretty excited about that.”
Aiden is a little less excited.
“I just don’t like the feeling of something going into my body,” said the nine-year-old, who is afraid of needles.”
CHEO says its clinic is aimed at easing some of those anxieties.
“The way our clinic is different is we offer more time and space per vaccination appointment and we have resources and support that focus on providing the child with the best experience, a really positive experience,” said Stephanie Carter, the director of ambulatory care at CHEO.
Carter says paediatric experts and people from the autism team will be on hand—including CHEO’s therapeutic clown, Molly.
The CHEO website states the clinic is geared toward children who are immunocompromised, individuals with autism or anxiety, and those who have a condition that makes its challenged to be vaccinated in the community.
Running Saturday and Sunday, the clinic has capacity for 300 kids a day.
Appointments can be booked by preregistering on CHEO’s website.
“We’re hoping that the smaller environment’s a little bit more intimate,” said Schulz. “They’re used to dealing with kids and that will make a difference.”
No new Covid-19 cases reported in Northwest Territories – Cabin Radio
The NWT on Friday reported no new cases of Covid-19, only the third day of reporting to come back blank since the territory’s latest Delta-variant outbreak began in mid-August.
The active case count across the territory dropped from 42 to 35. Twenty-eight are in Tuktoyaktuk – which now has a rabies warning to contend with – while four are in Yellowknife and one each in Inuvik, Norman Wells, and Hay River.
There was no change to the number of hospitalizations, intensive care admissions, or deaths.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization on Friday dubbed the globe’s latest variant of concern Omicron.
Omicron, identified in South Africa, has a large number of mutations. Early evidence suggests it could be significantly more transmissible than Delta and present an increased reinfection risk.
However, the amount of evidence related to Omicron is low. The variant was only identified last week and the number of cases studied to date numbers in the low dozens.
Some countries, including Canada, moved swiftly on Friday to impose travel restrictions on South Africa and neighbouring nations.
Canada currently has no direct flights to or from the affected region, but nevertheless banned the entry of all foreign nationals who have travelled through South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Lesotho, or Eswatini in the past 14 days.
Some observers criticized the rush to travel bans, arguing South Africa was in effect being punished for operating a particularly effective variant surveillance program.
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