THUNDER BAY -- Local health officials are warning about an increase in Invasive Group A Streptococcal (IGAS) infections in the Thunder Bay area.
The infection develops when the bacterium Streptococcus pyogenes gets into the blood, joints, lungs or lining of the brain.
It also causes more common diseases, such as strep throat and minor skin infections.
The Thunder Bay District Health Unit says it has not yet identified a cause for the increased incidence, but it is continuing to investigate in conjunction with Public Health Ontario.
The TBDHU says anyone can get an IGAS infections, however, they most commonly affect people in vulnerable groups including those with significant underlying illnesses, living in inadequate housing, or using injection drugs.
IGAS infections tend to be more common in the fall and winter months.
"The most important interventions are safe housing and wound care," said Dr. Janet DeMille, the medical officer of health for the TBDHU.
IGAS infections often present as severe skin or joint infections. Anyone with a rapidly-growing area of painful soft tissue swelling should seek emergency medical care.
The infections are treated with antibiotics or, in some cases, surgery.