There’s a difference between your common strep infection that is responsible for things like strep throat and scarlet fever and the invasive group A strep that is causing concern across the country.
“So this can cause blood infections, joint infections, and there’s actually three more serious infections that gets the attention of public health,” said Nova Scotia Public Health physician Dr. Ryan Sommers.
“So there’s a very serious blood infection cause streptococcus toxic shock syndrome […] the other big concern with this infection is something called necrotizing fasciitis, so it’s also called flesh-eating disease […] and finally, it can cause meningitis.”
Sommers says invasive strep A is when the infection gets into a part of the body where it’s not usually found and symptoms can happen quite quickly, within just a matter of hours.
“This has been some of the highest rates we’ve seen in the past six years,” he said.
The Public Health Agency of Canada(opens in a new tab) has noted more than 4,600 invasive group A samples from 2023 – the highest Canada has seen.
Last year in New Brunswick, there were 107 confirmed cases, according to the Department of Health. As of Friday, 27 cases have been reported for 2024, including five deaths.
When it comes to getting tested for strep, New Brunswickers have a new option with six pharmacies across the province stepping up to the plate.
“This is a pharmacy-funded pilot,” said Anne Marie Picone, interim executive director for the New Brunswick Pharmacists’ Association. “They are funding this without any government support and so it is really showing that we’re ready to collaborate, we’re ready to help the over burdened system.”
The pilot program started last September.
Shoppers Drug Mart on Prospect Street and Lawtons Drugs on Brookside in Fredericton, the Jean Coutu in Riverview, The Medicine Shoppe on Main Street in Moncton, the Hampton Pharmasave in Hampton, and Familiprix in Paquetville are participating in the program.
In January alone, Picone says those six pharmacies have tested nearly 200 patients.
“Not all of those have tested positive, but still those are tests and that’s not including the number of people who have come in to be accessed and then determined that it might be viral, they don’t need a prescription, they don’t need to have a test,” she said.
“The numbers are staggering to show what we have been able to offload from (the emergencies), the clinics, any of those.”
While people do need to make an appointment to get tested at participating pharmacies, Picone says they can test, determine if it’s positive, and prescribe all in the same appointment.
“We know that our pharmacists are equipped, they’re knowledgeable, they’re professionals, you know, and the other thing is that they take this very, very seriously,” she said.
Experts say there are symptoms that people should watch out for including a high fever that doesn’t get better even with ibuprofen or acetaminophen, a decrease in food and water intake, swelling, redness or a rash, and worsening symptoms, to name a few.