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 the 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.

Group-A Streptococcus (GAS)/CDC
Group-A Streptococcus (GAS)/CDC

Anybody can get an IGAS infection. However,  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 more cases are expected.

“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 the 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, health officials said.  IGAS infections are treated with antibiotics and, in some cases, surgery. 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 neighboring health units and Public Health Ontario.