TIMMINS, ONT. -- Constance Lake First Nation, located in northern Ontario, declared a state of emergency this week after a suspected outbreak of a lung infection called blastomycosis.

Nine probable cases are being treated in hospitals around Ontario and 12 people are being monitored within the community.

Three recent deaths may be linked to the outbreak, but that has yet to be confirmed.

Blastomycosis is an infection caused by a fungus found in soil, wet wood or mould. The disease gets into the lungs and can cause pneumonia and spread to other parts of the body.

Patients from Constance Lake First Nation, which is located about 40 kilometres west of Hearst, are being airlifted to hospitals in different cities.

Some of them have been taken to Sudbury, such as Amanda Lennox, who was admitted to the ICU.

Unable to speak with CTV Northern Ontario due to trouble breathing, she instead wrote a statement through Facebook.

"I honestly felt like my time was up at any moment because of how bad my pneumonia was," she said. "My nephew is also in ICU here across the hall from me in worse condition. I'm physically fighting this here with him until it's safe for us both to go home."

It often takes weeks for blastomycosis symptoms to appear, and since the disease isn't contagious, one expert says the sudden surge of cases could indicate a large, simultaneous exposure to the fungus.

"Usually, outbreaks occur when there's a bunch of people and they're moving wood and there's blastomycosis there and they're all exposed at the same time or a similar time," Dr. Anna Banerji, an infectious disease expert at the University of Toronto's Dalla Lana School of Public Health, told CTV News.

Constance Lake First Nation Chief Romana Sutherland says government investigators are on currently on-site attempting to trace the source of the outbreak, but more are needed to help stamp it out

"Just having two or three is not enough for the severity of this outbreak," she said. "We really need to contain this problem."

A questionnaire is being distributed to residents to help pinpoint the outbreak's source.

Indigenous Services Canada says it's working directly with Sutherland, the Porcupine Public Health Unit, the Ontario government, the Matawa Chiefs Council and other partners to address community needs.

Ontario's Ministry of Health says it's supporting patient transfers from the hospital in Hearst and that an environmental health investigation is underway, with samples being sent to a lab in Toronto.

With files from CTV News's Darren MacDonald and Heather Butts, and The Canadian Press