Flesh-eating germs kill Maui landscaper
Ron Lemay had just moved there from the mainland in March
WAILUKU » A man who had moved to Maui because he loved the people and climate has died from a flesh-eating disease.
Ron Lemay, 61, who moved from Massachusetts in March and was working as a landscaper, died Thursday morning at Maui Memorial Medical Center, his brother John Lemay said yesterday.
John Lemay said he hoped his brother's death would make people aware of the deadly infection and take immediate steps to treat wounds.
He said he was satisfied with the care that his brother received at the hospital. "They did everything they could, as far as I know," Lemay said.
Lemay's death marks the first death this year on Maui from the flesh-eating infection and the fourth in the state for 2006. Two other deaths have occurred on Oahu and one on Kauai, according to the state.
According to state experts, the infection rates for necrotizing fasciitis were about 10 to 20 per 100,000 population and that the death rate is well within normal limits.
State officials said the incident involving Lemay was not unusual and that Maui has had several cases a year of necrotizing fasciitis in the past. There is no vaccine for the infection.
Janice Okubo, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health, said earlier this week that the number of infections reported this year is not unusual and there is no evidence of any clustering of cases.
Necrotizing fasciitis develops from a common infection of Group A streptococcus, a bacterium found in the throat and on the skin.
While most Group A streptococcus cases end up in relatively mild illnesses as strep throat, they sometimes cause life-threatening diseases such as necrotizing fasciitis.
Health experts say people can reduce their risk by proper and immediate cleaning of all wounds, no matter how small, and keeping them clean and dry throughout the healing process.
Lemay said his brother was the type of person who would live in an area for a few years and work at various jobs and then move again.
But Lemay said Ron looked at Maui differently.
"He said, 'This is where I'm going to live. I love the people. I love the climate. ... When I die, spread my ashes out there,'" John Lemay recalled.
"I don't think he knew he would be going that soon. At least he was where he wanted to be."
Lemay was admitted to the hospital on Oct. 24 after emergency medical personnel found him unconscious on the courthouse steps in Wailuku. He never regained consciousness to reveal how he got the flesh-eating infection that eventually killed him.
John Lemay said he hopes an article about his brother will serve as a warning to others.
"If this saves somebody else, that's pretty good in itself," he said.
State officials are investigating Lemay's death and are asking anyone who knew him on Maui to call Maui Memorial at 442-5108.
Star-Bulletin reporter Craig Gima contributed to this report.