An aggressive form of strep is on the rise across the country and has already claimed five lives in New Brunswick this year — barely a month into 2024.
The Wetmore family in Riverview, N.B., is now urging people to get tested for Group A strep, after they say their father and husband was one of those who died suddenly from the bacterial infection.
Dan Wetmore, 49, died on Jan. 19 — just a week after falling sick with flu-like symptoms.
“You think … if he had been (at the hospital) sooner, maybe he’d still be here,” said Kim Wetmore, Dan’s wife.
Dan had been sick with a sore throat, inflamed sinuses and frequent vomiting when he went to the Moncton Hospital. His condition deteriorated quickly, his family says.
“He had his hands on the side of the railing on his bed. Just trying to raise himself off the bed because his body hurt so bad. He said it was the hardest thing he’s ever had to do in his entire life,” said Kim.
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Their 18-year-old son Zach recalls the devastating moments they realized Dan was critically ill.
“We were just in the waiting room, a lot more family started showing up. They kind of told us he wasn’t doing so well and that’s when we kind of knew,” said Zach.
Both Kim and Zach are urging anyone with flu-like symptoms to get tested quickly, as strep A can be treated with antibiotics if it’s caught early enough. New Brunswickers can be tested in hospitals or at select pharmacies.
“As of last Friday for January alone, we had 200 tests that were done throughout the six sites. It’s been very, very busy,” said Anne Marie Picone, the interim executive director of the New Brunswick Pharmacists’ Association.
“It’s only Monday and after speaking to several of the locations today. It is very busy.”
There have already been 107 confirmed cases of strep A in New Brunswick this year.
Over in Nova Scotia, health officials are also asking people to be aware of the symptoms of strep A in order to prevent spread of the infection, and to start treatment immediately when diagnosed.
“The big red flags to watch out for are a fever that is getting worse despite taking ibuprofen or Tylenol after a day or two,” said Dr. Ryan Sommers, Senior Regional Medical Officer of Health for Nova Scotia Health.
“The other big things we’ll see, especially in, children and sometimes older adults, is that they may not be drinking as much fluids they may not be eating as much.”
Sommers adds that the spike in cases is likely due to loosened public health measures and the fact it’s respiratory illness season. RSV or influenza can increase the likelihood of getting bacterial infections.
Chintan Prajapati, a Halifax-area pharmacist, says strep A is common and they often see patients test positive.
“We would assess 12 people in a day,” said Prajapati.
“If we decide whether we test, let’s say 10 out of the 12 people we test, 80 per cent of those 10 people would be positive.”
Prajapati suggests people practice good handwashing hygiene and stay up to date on annual vaccinations to lessen the risk of contracting it.
— with files from Global News’ Amber Fryday
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