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Toronto officials report 10 deaths due to a group A streptococcus in 2017

Just days after Middlesex-London Health officials reported an invasive group A streptococcus (iGAS) outbreak that has resulted in nine fatalities in 2017, Toronto health officials have confirmed 10 group A streptococcus deaths this year, according to a CBC report Saturday.

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Toronto Public Health (TPH) says 115 cases of iGAS have been reported in 2017. This figure includes the 18-month-long outbreak at Seaton House, a Toronto homeless shelter.

The Public Health Agency of Canada (PHAC) reports that it can spread easily and in virulent forms through open skin wounds, and also through intravenous drug use.

Health professionals also note that a majority of the cases across the country are appearing in homeless shelters. These are places where overcrowding, transient populations and poorer hygienic standards are not uncommon.

The most common disease caused by Streptococcus pyogenes is pharyngitis, or strep throat. Strep throat is very common in school-aged children, particularly in the winter and spring months. Untreated strep throat can lead to more serious complications like rheumatic fever; however, this is relatively uncommon.

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It is also a cause of several skin infections such as impetigo and cellulitis. Impetigo is a characterized by a crusty lesion frequently found on the mouth area. Cellulitis typically occurs after a wound or burn where the bacteria enters and spread though the skin and lower tissues.

More serious, potentially life-threatening infections caused by Streptococcus pyogenes include necrotizing fasciitis (commonly called flesh-eating bacteria) and toxic shock syndrome. In addition, Streptococcus pyogenes can cause scarlet fever, septicemia and pneumonia. The death of Muppets creator Jim Henson was a result of an infection with Streptococcus pyogenes.

Penicillin is still the drug of choice for treating Streptococcus pyogenes infections. In cases when a person is penicillin allergic, erythromycin is an alternative treatment.

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