Health Alert: Rise in Infectious Diseases in Manitoba Raises Concern in Northwestern Ontario

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KENORA – HEALTH – The Northwestern Health Unit (NWHU) is closely monitoring the health situation in neighboring Manitoba, where a notable increase in cases of Invasive Meningococcal Disease (IMD) and Invasive Group A Streptococcal (iGAS) infections has been reported. Due to frequent travel between Northwestern Ontario and Manitoba, there is an elevated concern for these infections in our region.

While the NWHU area typically reports higher rates of iGAS compared to other parts of Ontario, fortunately, there hasn’t been a corresponding rise in IMD cases locally. However, the NWHU urges the public to remain vigilant, recognizing the signs and symptoms of these illnesses, and ensuring vaccinations are up to date.

Understanding IMD and iGAS:

  • Invasive Meningococcal Disease (IMD): This serious bacterial infection spreads through respiratory droplets and saliva. While about 10% of carriers remain asymptomatic, they can still transmit the bacteria. Symptoms to watch for include high fever, stiff neck, severe headache, confusion, light sensitivity, muscle pains, nausea, vomiting, joint pain, and a distinctive dark purple rash. IMD can lead to severe long-term complications, including neurological issues, amputation, or even death.
  • Invasive Group A Streptococcal (iGAS): These bacteria are commonly found in the throat and on the skin. While most iGAS infections are mild, like strep throat or impetigo, they can escalate to severe conditions such as necrotizing fasciitis or streptococcal toxic shock syndrome. Symptoms of a severe iGAS infection include general malaise, high fever, severe localized pain, rash, stiff neck, headache, confusion, or low blood pressure.

Prompt and effective antibiotic treatment is crucial for both diseases.

Preventive Measures and Vaccination:

  • Vaccination: Ontario’s immunization schedule includes IMD vaccines for infants at 12 months and children in Grade 7. The NWHU will conduct school vaccination programs in the coming months. If your child is due for a vaccine, please contact us for scheduling. Additionally, anyone born in 1997 or later is eligible for the IMD vaccine. Unsure about your vaccination history? Email vaccines@nwhu.on.ca for assistance.
  • High-risk groups: People with HIV, asplenia, cochlear implants, acquired complement deficiencies, or primary antibody deficiencies should consider vaccination.
  • Secondary Infections: Vaccinations against Influenza, COVID-19, and Pneumococcal diseases can also help reduce the risk of severe secondary bacterial infections like IMD and iGAS.
  • Seek Medical Attention: If you exhibit symptoms of IMD or iGAS, especially if they are new or worsening, seek medical attention immediately. Inform your healthcare provider about any recent travel or exposure to severe infections.

For more information visit the Ontario Ministry of Health Meningococcal disease page or Health Canada’s Group A streptococcal diseases page.

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