Kim Wetmore is urging people to go to the hospital or get a test if you've got symptoms of strep A. She doesn't want people to have to go through the same pain she is going through now.
Her husband, Dan Wetmore, died of strep A in Moncton, N.B., on Jan. 19 at the age of 49. He had been sick for more than a week.
"By him putting it off and putting it off and putting it off, it ended his life," said Wetmore.
Canada is seeing a record number of cases of invasive Group A strep, a bacterial infection that kills roughly one in 10 people who contract it, according to data obtained by CBC News. There were more than 4,600 cases confirmed in Canada in 2023.
Invasive Group A streptococcal disease happens when the common strep A bacteria spreads beyond the places it typically infects, such as the throat or skin, where it can cause necrotizing fasciitis, known as flesh-eating disease.
This handout image provided by the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases shows an electron microscope image of Group A Streptococcus (orange) during phagocytic interaction with a human neutrophil (blue). (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases/The Associated Press)
Dan Wetmore's death is part of a spike of strep in New Brunswick. According to information from the department of health on Jan. 12, there have already been two other deaths from strep A in the province.
Dr. Yves Léger, the province's acting chief medical officer of health, called it a "concerning trend" earlier in the month.
Kim said her husband started feeling sick on Jan. 8. It started with a sore throat. That weekend he decided not to work at Kurt's Sausages at the Marché Moncton Market. It wasn't something he typically missed.
"It was his time.… He wanted to be with his Kurt's family during that barbecue and be with all those people," said Wetmore. "It was his retreat, I guess you would say. He just loved it."
But he was just feeling tired, and if it was infectious, he didn't want to get anyone else sick. By the end of the week he was starting to feel better. He went into work on Monday, but then didn't feel well again, and took the rest of the week off. He was tired, his body ached, and he was vomiting.
A microscopic view of Streptococcus bacteria, which can cause a spectrum of disease, ranging from milder infections like strep throat to life-threatening illness. (Josef Reischig/WikiCommons)
"I said, 'I think you need to go to the hospital.' And he said, 'No, it's just the flu'" said Wetmore.
But it got worse. At 6 a.m. on Jan. 19, Dan called 911.
When Kim got to the hospital, she was told that her husband had strep A. Dan was taken to the intensive care unit. He died that afternoon.
A smile on his face
Since Dan died, Kim Wetmore has been overwhelmed with the support from her family and the community. She's had people she didn't know coming up to her.
"I knew what kind of person he was.… But I didn't really know the kind of impact he had on people," she said.
She said hundreds of people showed up at the wake on Tuesday, and the funeral service was standing room only.
She said one man stands out to her. He cried in front of her for the first couple of minutes. He said his son had died, and when he would talk to Dan at the market, Dan would comfort and encourage him.
"The one thing people were saying was he always had a smile on his face," said Wetmore.
Kim says Dan was very close to Zach. The two would work at Kurt's Sausages every Saturday. (Kim Wetmore)
After Kim was told her husband had strep A, she had to take a pill, was given a prescription and was told to isolate.
"It's just going to be constantly going through my head. Do I have something?" said Wetmore.
The day of the wake, Kim's brother tested positive for strep A. He hadn't been feeling well, so he went and got tested. He caught it on time, and was able to get on antibiotics.
But she said her brother likely wouldn't have bothered if it wasn't for what happened to Dan.
Earlier in January, Léger urged people to take measures to protect themselves and others against severe Group A streptococcal infections and other respiratory illnesses.
Dr. Yves Léger says the rise in cases of strep A is a concerning trend. (Shane Magee/CBC)
He said that can include staying home when sick, wearing a mask in public, washing your hands, and keeping up-to-date with vaccines.
Symptoms may include sore throat, fever, rash or a skin infection that is red, swollen, warm and tender to the touch, according to the province's website.
"Don't sit on it, like people cannot sit on it," said Wetmore. "They need to go. It's not something to play around with. It's not a joke."