Maui leptospirosis case prompts public meetings
WAILUKU » State health officials are holding public meetings in east Maui after a pig hunter contracted leptospirosis, a bacterium that can cause liver or kidney failure and death if not treated in a timely manner.
"It's confirmed he contracted it in Hana," said Dr. Lorrin Pang, state health administrator on Maui. Pang said the man, who became ill in late December, was confined to a hospital for a few days before recovering.
A meeting is scheduled at 7 p.m. tomorrow at the old school near the Hana Baseball Park.
Another meeting is tentatively scheduled Friday morning in Kipahulu, and there are expected to be subsequent meetings in Haiku and Keanae. For more details, residents are asked to call 984-8213.
Pang said the meeting was being called to educate people because the region hasn't had recent medical reports about leptospirosis until the latest case and the consequences can be severe if left untreated.
He said there have been more frequent reports of leptospirosis in wet areas on the north coast of Kauai and in Hamakua on the Big Island.
The bacterium is found in mammals such as pigs, dogs and rats and is shed in urine, remaining present in fresh water or mud, he said.
Leptospirosis usually enters the human body through the mucous membrane or an open cut, and symptoms can take three to 12 days after exposure to occur, Pang said.
Pang said the symptoms can be confused with dengue fever in that both ailments cause headaches, fever, nausea, vomiting and muscle ache. He said that during the dengue fever outbreak in 2001, 19 people who were tested on Maui turned out to have leptospirosis.
Pang said those who think they might have leptospirosis should inform their physician as soon as possible because there is a three-day period after noticing the disease in which it is treatable with antibiotics.
He said the antibiotics are less successful as the disease grows, and not taking them could lead to renal or liver failure.
Pang said the bacterial disease is preventable. "If you've got a bad cut or scrape, try to cover it up," Pang said. "If you're going into the water, try not to immerse your head."