A Michigan-based paper mill operated by Swedish company Billerud faces a temporary shutdown due to a significant fungal infection outbreak, resulting in numerous infections and at least one fatality.

Swedish firm Billerud, which operates a paper mill in Escanaba, Michigan, declared last Thursday that they would temporarily shut down the facility for a period of three weeks. This decision comes in response to a growing fungal infection outbreak that began about a month ago. The company aims to carry out an extensive cleaning process during the closure.

Although Billerud called the mill’s temporary shutdown a “precautionary measure,” the Daily Mail reported that employees expressed concerns about Blastomycosis, the fungal infection in question, as early as February. Workers highlighted the need to pinpoint the problem’s source. In an initial attempt to control the outbreak, Billerud instructed staff to wear face masks after the first positive cases emerged in early March.

However, face masks proved insufficient in curbing the spread of the fungal infection. Delta and Menominee Counties public health officials revealed that by the second week of April, there were 21 confirmed cases and another 76 probable cases. The health department also announced the first fatality resulting from the infection last Friday.

In response to the tragic news, local health officer Michael Snyder from the health department expressed his sympathies:

“Our heartfelt sympathies and prayers go out to the family, friends, and coworkers who have lost their loved one.”

Brian Peterson, Billerud’s Operations vice president at the mill, also offered his condolences:

“Everyone at Billerud is deeply saddened by this news. Anyone who works at our facility is part of our team, and we are keeping this individual, their family, coworkers, and friends in our thoughts and close to our hearts.”

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The paper mill in Michigan appears to be at the center of what could potentially be one of the most extensive fungal outbreaks in US history. While the name of the deceased has not yet been made public, it is known that a contractor at the mill succumbed to the infection. To date, twelve individuals have been hospitalized, and nearly 100 more are suspected of having contracted the disease.

The outbreak remains limited to employees working at the mill or those who have visited the site, with no reported cases within the broader community.

Sources: 100PercentFedUp, Daily Mail

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