(Home in Morley, Alta. where EMS found an infant dead and transported 14 others to hospital with flu-like symptoms Wednesday. Photo credit: Tamara Pimentel)
Melissa Ridgen and Tamara Pimental
Health Canada says influenza appears to be what killed a four-month-old Morley, Alta. girl and hospitalized her parents and 12 siblings.
“We’re still awaiting the official results from the autopsy but we got a letter today from Health Canada saying it does look like it is the flu,” said Rob Lahache, CEO of the Wesley band, one of three reserves that make up the Stoney Nakoda Nation in Morley, 60 kilometers west of Calgary.
On Wednesday afternoon, an infant was declared dead inside a home and 14 others were taken by ambulance to hospital with “influenza-like symptoms” according to paramedics.
Lahache said the community has been dealing with a flu outbreak in recent weeks.
“We’ve got an extended winter and extended flu season.”
While health officials said exposure to a noxious substance had been ruled out, there was speculation something other than the flu was to blame.
“Everyone is being described as being ill at the same time but maybe some people have their onset of their illness before others, and sort of have passage of flu from one person to another rather than everybody getting sick at once which would not be typical with flu, ” infectious disease expert Neil Rau told APTN News.
But if the bug hit an overcrowded house, it could hit everyone at once, as Health Canada believes is the case.
Lahache said he’s unsure how many bedrooms and bathrooms are in the family’s modest bungalow, but the home is “small” for 15 people.
The Wesley band has approximately 1,600 on-reserve members and overcrowded housing is a problem. “We have 25 people living in some houses, others have two people or one person. We can’t control how many people are in a house.”
The most recent housing audit shows an average of 9.4 people live in each home in the community.
“Overcrowding happens all across Canada on First Nations. We’re dealing with a socialized housing system and there’s only so much you can do within that,” Lahache said.
Two adults have been released from hospital. A two-year-old remains in serious condition in hospital and the others are in stable condition.
Lahache said community members have offered to “open their doors” to the family members as they’re released from hospital.