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Dartmouth boy, 6, died from invasive group A strep

Jaydon Davis, 6, passed away on Wednesday, March 6. He had invasive group A strep. His father is urging families to bring their children to the hospital if they have a fever. (Randy Davis/Facebook - image credit)
Jaydon Davis, 6, passed away on Wednesday, March 6. He had invasive group A strep. His father is urging families to bring their children to the hospital if they have a fever. (Randy Davis/Facebook - image credit)

A six-year-old boy from Dartmouth, N.S., has died after contracting an invasive strep A infection and his father is now encouraging other families to take their children to the hospital if they have a fever.

"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 Randy Davis, the father of Jaydon Davis, a Grade 1 student who attended Admiral Westphal Elementary.

"The last thing you want to do is find it too late, because this stuff is so quick. It takes over so fast that you might as well find it right away."

Davis said Jaydon developed a mild fever on Sunday, March 3. He said it didn't seem too serious because he was up chasing his sisters around and ate supper. The next morning, he said Jaydon seemed well enough to go to school, however he came home with a fever. Davis said there was nothing out of the ordinary about his fever.

But by Tuesday, Davis said his son was vomiting, had the sweats and chills and his fever got more intense. He said they don't have a family doctor, so they booked a virtual care appointment and, after the doctor heard Jaydon cough, were prescribed a puffer.

At that point, Davis said, they hadn't gone to the hospital because he didn't want to put his son through a potentially hours-long wait only to be given a children's Advil and sent home.

Strep A bacteria in a petri dish
Strep A bacteria in a petri dish

According to Health Canada, invasive group A streptococcal disease occurs when the common strep A bacteria spreads to parts of the body where bacteria are not normally found. (Craig Chivers/CBC)

"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 said.

According to Health Canada, invasive group A streptococcal disease occurs when the common strep A bacteria spreads to parts of the body where bacteria are not normally found, such as the blood, lungs, muscles, joints and bones, or the fluid surrounding the brain and spinal cord.

"If you're a parent and your toddler has a fever that's 101 degrees, take them to the emergency room. Take them in and treat it as if they have group strep A and wait until the IWK tells you that it isn't," Davis said. "It'll never not be worth it to go."

Davis said it's not clear how his son contracted strep A.

Nova Scotia Health told CBC News that close contacts were identified and those with significant connections have been offered antibiotics. It isn't considered an outbreak because there haven't been additional cases connected to it, Nova Scotia Health said.

On Monday, a spokesperson for Nova Scotia Health confirmed the death in a statement, but did not release a name or age.

"Approximately two weeks ago, there was a tragic death of a young individual in our province with invasive group A streptococcal," said Jennifer Lewandowski.

Community support

Davis said the community, including Jaydon's school, have been very supportive to the family. He said grief counselors were sent to the school and students wrote messages and drew pictures. He said those gestures have meant a lot. He said they also set up an online fundraiser for funeral expenses and to ease some of the financial strain.

Davis said Jaydon loved being outdoors with a stick in his hands. He said he loved paper airplanes and would chase them around.

"He was just a force of nature, a ball of energy, the biggest personality and smile," Davis said.

"It was just amazing how many stories have come out.... The strange little kind of quirky things that he would do. Everybody knew him as Spider-Man because he was always forever Spider-Man posing. There's very few pictures of him where he's not doing a Spider-Man pose or flex ... He was just everything. Boy, he was amazing."

Dr. Ryan Sommers,  the senior regional medical officer of health at Nova Scotia Health, said the province is seeing an increase of invasive group A strep.  As of February, public heath has reported 39 cases this year compared to 19 during the same time frame in 2023.

"This is a trend we're seeing across Canada and internationally as well," he said. "The numbers were quite low during the pandemic years we had a very small number of cases, but as the measures were lifted.... we just did start seeing more cases."

Exposure at school 

A letter from Nova Scotia Health circulating on social media said students at Admiral Westphal Elementary School in Dartmouth may have been exposed to an individual with invasive group A strep.

Halifax Regional Centre for Education said they could not comment due to privacy reasons.

Jeff Desjardins, a parent of a student at the school, said public health sent out communication about invasive group A strep on March 8.

"[My son] was quite ill before we got that notification," he said. "They advised all families who had been exposed to it to take antibiotics as a precaution."

Desjardins, whose child is now on the mend, said he was not aware of the signs and symptoms of invasive group A strep before then.

Invasive infections rare

Health Canada says invasive group A strep infections are rare, but can cause severe symptoms including:

  • Fever and shortness of breath due to pneumonia.

  • Fever, severe pain and redness due to breakdown of the tissues under the skin as a result of necrotizing fasciitis (flesh eating disease).

  • Fever, chills, muscle aches, nausea and vomiting.

"Rates are highest among children under five and adults 65 and older," Lewandowski said. "There were five deaths last year — all individuals were over the age of 55."

There is no vaccine to prevent group A strep. According to the Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia, rapid strep tests found at drug stores are not for invasive group A strep.

"Community Pharmacy Primary Care Clinics offer Strep A assessment (sore throat) and point-of-care testing," the association said in an email. "Those who are experiencing symptoms of invasive Group A strep should seek medical care immediately."

The Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia says throat swabs cannot diagnose invasive group A strep infections.
The Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia says throat swabs cannot diagnose invasive group A strep infections.

The Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia says throat swabs cannot diagnose invasive group A strep infections. (Pharmacy Association of Nova Scotia)

Sommers said hand hygiene as well as covering open wounds and coughing into the upper arm can help reduce the spread of the disease.

"One thing that can trigger it, people can have a predisposing respiratory illness," Sommers said. "So it's really important for people to stay up to date on their COVID-19 and their influenza vaccines."

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