Canal water suspect in boy's infection
The Punahou student was hospitalized last month after paddling in the Ala Wai Canal
A 15-year-old Punahou School canoe paddler's hospitalization with a serious bacterial infection last month has raised questions about whether Ala Wai Canal water could be to blame.
The boy had paddled in the Ala Wai Canal on Jan. 31 and was hospitalized Feb. 2 with streptococcal toxic shock syndrome, which is potentially life-threatening, state Department of Health spokeswoman Janice Okubo said yesterday.
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
The Ala Wai Canal was still polluted enough yesterday for the state Health Department to issue a warning to stay out of the canal. This sign is posted by the canoes that are stored along the canal by the McCully Street bridge. CLICK FOR LARGE
KEEP CLEAN TO STAY HEALTHY
Good hygiene provides the best prevention for avoiding serious bacterial infections. Health officials advise:
» Wash with soap and water after paddling, swimming, football, soccer or any other sport where contact is made with soil, water or fellow athletes.
» Do not share towels.
» Be sure to clean and cover open wounds.
» Seek medical help if a wound becomes red, swollen or there is a fever.
Sources: State Department of Health, Dr. Alan Tice
On the Net
» Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Health Department officials believe after consulting with the federal Centers for Disease Control that it is unlikely the boy contracted the bacteria from the canal, Okubo said.
But infectious-disease specialist Dr. Alan Tice said the possibility cannot be entirely ruled out.
"There have been some concerns that these things (streptococcal bacteria) can survive in water. There may be some risk," said Tice, a University of Hawaii associate professor.
Tice said he is not familiar with the student paddler's case, but that it would be far more likely a person would contract a bacterial infection from contact with other people.
Tice said he has been working with the state Health Department and the Surfrider Foundation to determine whether reports of infections have been related to surfing, paddling or swimming, "but we haven't seen any clear links."
Most Group A streptococcus infections are relatively mild illnesses, such as "strep throat" or impetigo, according to the CDC Web site. However, the bacteria can cause other severe and life-threatening diseases including necrotizing fasciitis ("flesh-eating bacteria") or streptococcal toxic shock syndrome.
In 2006 the Health Department confirmed 2,218 cases of Group A streptococcus infection in a wound, of which 136 were the more serious invasive-type infections, Okubo said.
An e-mail Monday from the Health Department to canoe paddling groups referred them to a CDC Web site for information about streptococcus and advised, "Although strep can be picked up anywhere (including practicing on the Ala Wai Canal), we remind paddlers and other water users to practice good personal hygiene, apply first aid to wounds, and at the onset of any infection or illness, see your personal physician immediately."
Punahou spokeswoman Laurel Bowers Husain confirmed yesterday that a student paddler did have a serious infection, which is prompting the school's athletic department to review paddler hygiene practices.
"With infections you never know exactly what happened," Husain said. "We want to take the precautions that we can take."