Constance Lake First Nation Chief Ramona Sutherland wants to find the cause of a lung infection that’s impacting her community.
The Hearst-area First nation is in a state of emergency because of the outbreak of blastomycosis, an infection caused by a fungus found in soil, wet wood or mould. The source of the fungus is not known and is being investigated.
The symptoms of the infection are feeling unwell, difficulty breathing, chills, fever and fatigue.
Sutherland said she has a lot of support but she’s more worried about finding the source of the infection.
“I hope there will be no more people (that get sick). I just need this to stop,” Sutherland said in an interview Thursday morning.
In a virtual update Wednesday night, the chief said there was one confirmed case of blastomycosis. The person was transferred to a hospital outside of the community.
As of Nov. 24, there were 13 probable cases and 44 people under investigation.
Those 44 people went to the hospital to check their symptoms and have to return every two days for follow-up checkups, the chief said. The community will subcontract a van and a driver to provide transportation to appointments.
Three people and one dog also recently died in the community. The deaths are “very likely” due to the infection, the chief said earlier this week.
Sutherland promised to help people visit their loved ones in the hospitals because “family support is very important and necessary."
There are three investigators in the community from Indigenous Services Canada and the Public Health Agency of Canada, according to Sutherland. More investigators will be arriving.
“I’ll take the help wherever help comes from,” Sutherland said Thursday morning.
Samples are being taken from people’s homes, the school, the lumber mill, a pile of sawdust and any other place people have identified as a point of interest.
The sawdust has been there for decades and was left from the sawmill that used to be in the community, Sutherland said in an interview.
“We’re restricting our children from going there. Usually, they would go and use their Ski-Doo there or go tobogganing on that hill,” she said.
There are five environmental officers in the community helping members with the questionnaire, which was distributed to help trace the source of blastomycosis.
Two traditional support workers, a male and female, will also be available.
Two nurses are in the community today as well to help with COVID-19 vaccination and flu shots.
“We’re very interested in finding a source of this problem. We need to contain it, we need to limit it and make sure our people don’t continue being sick,” Sutherland said in the virtual update.
People looking for mental health support can contact Jane Mattinas Health Centre at 705-463-2155.
Crisis Worker Mary Jane Louttit is available at 705-373-2619.
Crisis management co-ordinator Roger Wesley can be reached at 705-463-2155, ext. 401.
Dariya Baiguzhiyeva, Local Journalism Initiative Reporter, TimminsToday.com