October 11, 2017 - Over 2017, the Thunder Bay District Health Unit has seen an increase in the number of cases of invasive group A streptococcal (IGAS) infections in our community. This infection develops when the bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes gets into the blood, joints, lungs, or lining of the brain. Streptococcus pyogenes also causes more common diseases, like strep throat and minor skin infections.
Anybody can get an IGAS infection. However, in our area, IGAS reflects health inequities, and infection most commonly affects a very vulnerable group of people: individuals who have significant underlying illnesses, lack adequate housing, or use injection drugs. IGAS infections tend to be more common in the fall and winter, so we are expecting more cases.
“The most important interventions to prevent IGAS infections are safe housing and wound care. We thank organizations in our community doing this important work,” said Dr. Janet DeMille, Medical Officer of Health.
IGAS infections in our region often present as severe skin or joint infections. If you or someone you know has a rapidly growing area of painful soft tissue swelling, seek emergency medical care. IGAS infections are treated with antibiotics and, in some cases, surgery. We will also be informing health care providers and social service providers regarding the increase in cases. Northwestern Health Unit has also seen an increase. We have not yet identified a cause for the increased incidence, and are continuing to investigate, along with neighbouring health units and Public Health Ontario.