ORANGE COUNTY - The family of an 11-year-old boy from Winter Park said he died after a twisted ankle and potential scratch eventually spiraled out of control. Jesse Brown got Strep-A, which then turned into something worse, eventually killing him.
"In my mind, I was in complete disbelief. I was like, he’ll be fine. This could never happen to our family," Megan Brown, Jesse Brown’s cousin, said.
Jesse Brown was a healthy 11-year-old. He rode motocross, was in fifth grade at Lakemont Elementary School in Orange County and was always on the go. Megan Brown said he hurt his ankle while on a treadmill a few weeks ago. A few days after that, his mom woke up to a startling sight.
"His whole leg was covered in like splotchy, purply, red, almost like bruises," Brown said.
From there, Brown said it was a whirlwind. Jesse was admitted to the ICU. Doctors eventually diagnosed him with group-a strep, and within a few days, the family said that turned into a flesh-eating bacteria, causing Jesse’s brain to swell, and killing him.
"They said that because he rolled his ankle, that that’s likely where the infection attacked it. Because it was already weak," Brown said.
Dr. Candice Jones, an Orlando pediatrician, said there’s been a recent uptick in invasive strep-a cases among kids in the U.S.
"Some of the speculations has been that some of those cases started after respiratory infections, and we had been seeing an uptick in those types of infections anyway post-pandemic," Dr. Jones said.
"So there are several routes of entry in ways that these bacteria can cause mild to severe infection and even end in death," Dr. Jones said.
Group-A strep is the same bacteria that causes strep throat. Dr. Jones said most cases are not as severe, but in very rare cases, it can cause a secondary infection like flesh-eating disease. She said symptoms to look out for include swelling, redness, foul smell, and fever.
"For this to kill him in just a matter of days was crazy," Brown said.
Hundreds of Jesse’s classmates in Winter Park gathered to remember him.
School staff posted on a memorial fund page for Jesse, saying "While Jesse was a miracle to his parents and family, he was also a true blessing to his Lakemont family. Jesse was kind and compassionate, looked out for others, adventurous, and truly an amazing friend and classmate."
Jesse’s family hopes their experience can help other families.
"If there was more awareness, maybe we could have caught it earlier when we noticed he had a fever," Brown said.