05/07/2015 08:22 EDT | Updated 05/07/2016 05:59 EDT

Flesh-eating disease sends Windsor area woman to hospital

Flesh-eating disease has landed a southern Ontario woman in hospital, the Windsor-Essex County Health Unit says.

The woman is from the Windsor-Essex region and is being treated in a London hospital, where she is receiving specialized treatment.

According to an online fundraising webpage created to support the woman's family, she began to feel sick shortly after giving birth in early April, and was put in an induced coma.

Because of confidentiality, the hospital in London has not confirmed those details.

The Windsor-Essex County Health Unit has launched an investigation to determine how the woman was infected.

"The good thing about this disease, it doesn't transmit from one person to another person that easily," said Dr. Wajid Ahmed, the associate medical officer of health. "The people who are much more at risk are the close family members and the contacts who share a living arrangements, have some sort of sexual contact and things like that."

Dr. Michael Silverman, the chief of infectious diseases at London Health Sciences Centre, said necrotizing fasciitis, commonly known as flesh-eating disease, is  and "extremely complex and difficult disease to treat."

He could not comment on the patient in London, but said "it requires enormous resources" to treat the disease.

If it's caught very early, sometimes antibiotics are enough, Silverman said. If not caught early, the treatment involves aggressive intervenes antibiotics coupled with surgery.

"It can lead to loss of limbs and even death," Silverman said.

Silverman said between three and seven people in every one million will have the disease at any one time.

"Cases are very unusual. They get a lot of notoriety because they're so dramatic and can be so devastating when then happen," Silverman said. "Fortunately, it's rare so the public doesn't have to be frightened that it will likely happen to them."

Necrotizing fasciitis is part of Group A streptococcus, the same organism that causes strep throat.

"It's caught just like strep throat. Usually when it's there, it's not doing much harm. Most times, it's just strep throat," Silverman said. "But if it gets into a small little cut or even a scratch, it can cause a little bit of a skin infection. It if gets down to deeper layers it can do this terrible damage."

Symptoms of necrotizing fasciitis include:

- Changes in skin colour.

- Flu-like symptoms like fever, chills, nausea, muscle aches, vomiting, and diarrhea.

- Blisters on the skin.

- Painful, red, hot, and swollen areas.

- Extreme pain or pain which seems too great for an injury.