Canadian 6-year-old dies from strep A: What you should know about the disease as parents urge testing

The boy's father says strep A 'just attacked his body' overnight and he was gone. Here's what to know.

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Invasive strep A cases are being reported at record levels across Canada, and one child has recently died from the illness. (Photo via Getty Images) Touching a neck. Invasive strep A cases are being reported at record levels across Canada. (Photo via Getty Images)
Invasive strep A cases are being reported at record levels across Canada, and one child has recently died from the illness. (Photo via Getty Images)

A Canadian community is mourning the loss of six-year-old Jaydon Davis, who died earlier this month from invasive group A streptococcus. Jaydon's initial symptoms were mild, but his condition rapidly deteriorated. His father, Randy Davis, is now advocating for prompt medical attention for children showing signs of fever, to combat this fast-acting disease.

The Nova Scotia boy developed a mild fever on Sunday, Mar. 3. His father, Davis, told the CBC it didn't seem too serious at the time, because he was playing and eating normally. He went to school the next day, and came home with a fever. By Tuesday, Jaydon was vomiting and his fever became worse.

"Sometime in the middle of the night on Tuesday, the group strep A just attacked his body... his mother found him in the morning and he was gone," Davis told the CBC.

This tragic event has brought attention to the increasing incidence of invasive strep A infections. The local community has rallied around the Davis family, offering condolences and support. Jaydon, remembered for his vibrant personality and love of the outdoors, left a lasting impression on those around him.

Davis now urges parents to take their children to the emergency room if they have a high fever, "and treat it as if they have group strep A," until they're told it isn't.

"If your child has a fever, check their temperature every half an hour. If it goes up by a point, take them in. It'll never ever not be worth it," said Davis, in the CBC.

Nova Scotia, like much of Canada, is seeing a rise in invasive group A strep (iGAS). Provincial public health has reported 39 cases in the first two months of 2024, compared to 19 in same time frame in 2023.

If you're a parent and your toddler has a fever that's 101 degrees, take them to the emergency room.Randy Davis, via CBC

In neighbouring province of New Brunswick, five people died within the first month of 2024. Among those lost is Dan Wetmore of Riverview, N.B., whose family now advocates for widespread testing for invasive Group A strep, as reported by Global News. Wetmore, aged 49, died on Jan. 19, just a week after he began exhibiting flu-like symptoms. His widow, Kim Wetmore, described his struggle from the bacterial illness as being sick with "a sore throat, inflamed sinuses and frequent vomiting" before he was admitted to the Moncton Hospital, adding his condition deteriorated quickly.

While invasive group A streptococcus (iGAS) most often affects children and seniors, anyone can have it.

Canada is seeing a record number of cases of invasive Group A strep. Ontario's data indicates around three-quarters of people with a confirmed case of iGAS end up going to the hospital, while Quebec reported a 55 per cent rise in cases last year over pre-pandemic levels.

But what signs should Canadians be look out for when it comes to iGAS, and when should you worry?Here's what you need to know.

What is invasive group A streptococcus (iGAS)?

Invasive strep is a bacterial infection increasingly impacting Canadian kids. (Photo via Getty Images)
Invasive strep is a bacterial infection increasingly impacting Canadians. (Photo via Getty Images)

Group A streptococcus (GAS) is a common bacterial infection that grows inside the nose, throat and sometimes on the skin. It most often affects children and seniors, but anyone can have it.

Toronto infectious disease specialist Dr. Anna Banerji said it often causes strep throat and sinus infections, and it can escalate and cause issues like ulcers.

But, if it goes into a person's bloodstream it can serious conditions, including meningitis and toxic shock syndrome — which could become fatal.

Group A streptococcus is common, and "is more severe than other types of streptococcus," Banerji recently told Yahoo Canada. But the invasive type — one that enters the bloodstream — is less common and causing concern.

These are the symptoms you can look out for:

  • For non-invasive infection with Group A streptococcus:

    • fever

    • sore, painful throat

    • mild skin infections, such as: rashes, sores, bumps, blisters

  • For invasive Group A streptococcal infections:

    • trouble breathing (pneumonia)

    • breakdown of the skin and connective tissues (necrotizing fasciitis)

    • fever, unsafe drop in blood pressure, vomiting and diarrhea (toxic shock syndrome)

Why are we seeing a spike in invasive strep cases?

Banerji explained there are several reasons for the increasing case numbers of iGAS — including some "post-pandemic" behaviours.

"We were all practicing public health measures before with masking and strep, that's in the throat, is generally spread by droplets. If you use masking, then you reduce the spread," she said.

"In the fall, when the kids when back to school and took off their masks, a lot of viruses and bacteria spread." But, Banerji said many kids also hadn't been exposed to strep previously because of the pandemic restrictions, and "didn't have a lot of immunity." That's why younger patients tend to have more severe strep.

Group A streptococcus is more severe than other types of streptococcus. (Getty) Studio photo from a young man with a mask Isolated sick patients have sore throat.
Group A streptococcus is more severe than other types of streptococcus. (Getty)

The expert said while strep lives in the throat, any virus infection could cause strep symptoms to develop.

"Because we had a horrible viral season this fall, we also saw more strep than usual."

John McCormick, a professor of immunology and epidemiology at Western University, says research now shows about 10 per cent of children will carry strep in their throats without any problems. In the "rare" case of invasive strep, the bacteria can become "quite dangerous."

Numbers are increasing and "it happen to essentially anybody."

McCormick echoed Banerji in saying the lack of immunity in children is likely the reason behind the recent spike. "When there's less transmission, there's less strep," he added.

Should Canadians worry about invasive strep?

Should the average person worry about the recent spike in cases? McCormick said no, but added Canadians should stay informed.

"Mortality rates from invasive streptococcal disease... can be quite high," he said. "That would obviously be the worst consequence."

However, other severe consequences can include the need to remove tissue and even amputation, according to McCormick.

"In general, people should not be really that worried," he said. "But they should just be ... using common sense."

McCormick said if you or your loved one is experiencing what looks like strep throat, they should see a health care professional and get diagnosed.

If you have these types of symptoms, you shouldn't ignore them.John McCormick

"If they have strep throat, (parents) probably shouldn't be sending their kids to school. If you have any kind of an open cut or sore, you should be using normal hygienic practices," he explained.

Banerji agreed.

"I don't think the average Canadian should lose sleep, cause we've just been through a major pandemic and it doesn't compare to (the strep increase)," she said. "If you are sick, stay home because you don't want it to spread," Banerji advised. "The main thing is trying to reduce spread."

For those who are diagnosed, her advice is to "start the antibiotics early."

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