NATIONAL NEWS

Michigan paper mill with unusual illnesses reopens

May 9, 2023, 2:02 PM

ESCANABA, Mich. (AP) — A northern Michigan paper mill has resumed operations after closing for three weeks to deal with an unusual outbreak of fungal infections.

The Billerud Paper Mill in Escanaba reopened Monday, following a deep cleaning recommended by public health authorities and experts, the company said.

No spores linked to the blastomycosis disease have been found, the mill said.

“We continue to work closely with and follow the recommendations of local, state and federal health experts as they continue to investigate this dynamic situation,” Billerud said.

The infection is related to a fungus that grows in moist soil and decomposing wood and leaves, according to the public health department in Delta County, which publicly disclosed a number of unusual pneumonia infections in March.

There have been 115 cases of blastomycosis so far, the department said last week, resulting in 14 people — workers, contractors or mill visitors — being admitted to the hospital. One person has died.

Blastomycosis does not pass from person to person. Common symptoms are cough, fever, shortness of breath, joint pain and weight loss. The incubation period can range from 21 days to 90 days.

The mill, which employs more than 800 people in Michigan’s Upper Peninsula, produces paper for magazines, catalogs, books and other products. Billerud is based in Sweden.

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Michigan paper mill with unusual illnesses reopens