Province finds increase in rare, invasive illnesses: What you need to know

The government of Manitoba alongside Manitoba Health has found an increase in two invasive illnesses that can mimic viral infections like the flu and COVID-19, and can be fatal.

The first is invasive meningococcal disease (IMD), and the second is invasive group A streptococcal infections (iGAS).

While “severe infections from IMD and iGAS are very rare,” they are seen more often when infections like the flu run rampant, the province said.

Invasive Meningococcal Disease

Eight cases of IMD have been found in the past month, the province said. Usually, about six cases turn up annually, it said in a media release on Thursday afternoon.

Six of the affected people live in the Winnipeg Regional Health Authority, another in Prairie Mountain Health and the last in the Northern Regional Health Authority, the release said.

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IMD usually looks like meningitis or an infection in the bloodstream, the province said, adding that symptoms include:

  • a dark purple rash
  • high fever
  • severe headache
  • stiff neck
  • upset stomach
  • severe aches or pains
  • weakness
  • drowsiness
  • sensitivity to light

The province said the disease can result in amputations, and in about 10 per cent of cases, even death.

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Rapid treatment, including antibiotics and other symptom-dependent care is necessary, it said.

The bacteria is spread through airborne droplets and saliva, generally through close or prolonged contact, the government said.

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Most Manitobans have been vaccinated against the disease, the province said, but it encourages talking to a health-care provider about immunization eligibility.

“Public health investigations are underway, at this time there are no known links between cases,” Manitoba said.

Invasive Group A Streptococcal Infections

While the province said there are no clusters or outbreaks of iGAS right now, there has been an increase since the pandemic, it said.

In 2023, 200 confirmed cases were reported, the release said, compared to 150 in 2022.

iGAS are bacteria generally found in the throat and on the skin, Manitoba said, adding that most of the infections are mild, like step throat.

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However, the infection can be severe, and in the worst-case scenario fatal, it said. The infection is life-threatening when bacteria get into parts of the body they’re not usually found like blood, deep muscle and fat tissue, or the lungs, Manitoba said.

When it’s bad, iGAS requires “immediate treatment including appropriate antibiotic therapy,” the government said.

Symptoms of the infection vary, the province said in the release.

“There may be fever, muscle aches and pains. A bruise or skin infection may become red, warm or very painful, including pain beyond the area that is obviously affected. A rash may be present,” it said.

More Information

Manitoba said if your symptoms worsen or you become very unwell, you should seek urgent medical care.

To prevent against getting diseases and infections like IMD and iGAS, the province said to get vaccinated against other viral infections like the flu, COVID-19 and pneumococcal disease.

It also said Public Health gave an update to health-care providers about IMD and iGAS infections.

Click to play video: 'With respiratory illness season here, Manitoba experts say ‘get that booster shot’'

With respiratory illness season here, Manitoba experts say ‘get that booster shot’

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