Maui man who contracted
murine typhus dies

LAHAINA >> A man who contracted murine typhus on Maui in June 2002 has died.

Stephen Pysz, 50, died Aug. 26 at the veterans hospital in Palo Alto, Calif., said hospital spokesman William Ball.

Citing confidentiality laws, Ball said he was unable to give out any further information, including whether Pysz died of complications from murine typhus. He said Pysz was admitted to the hospital Aug. 22.

State Health Department spokeswoman Janice Okubo said when investigating the spread of infectious diseases, the department may not track the long-term effect on a person who no longer is infectious or no longer poses a risk to others.

"We don't have the resources to track every individual that's been diagnosed and treated for an infectious disease when there is no public health issue," she said. "We don't release individual medical information when there is no risk to public health and safety."

Pysz, who worked as a photographer and massage therapist on Maui, was in a coma for three weeks last year and eventually was transferred from Tripler Army Medical Center to California for rehabilitation, a friend said.

People typically contract murine typhus bacteria from fleas that first bite an infected rodent. The infection can be treated with antibiotics.

The statewide total for murine typhus cases reached 47 last year, the highest since the mid-1940s, and paralleled an increase in the rodent population in many places.

From January through September this year, the number of murine typhus cases in the state totaled 25, compared with 35 for the same period last year.

State health officials said murine typhus typically causes body aches, headaches, rash and a fever, and is usually gone two weeks after treatment, health officials.

Officials said murine typhus can on rare occasions cause severe symptoms.

In southern Lahaina, where Pysz lived in a house along Front Street, fallen mangoes attracted rats.

In an interview last year, friend and neighbor Dan Regan said he saw "a lot of rats" in the area where Pysz lived and had shot a couple of them.

Regan said Pysz frequently complained about getting bitten by fleas.

Regan said he cleared the area of eight barrels of mangoes shortly after Pysz got sick in June 2002.

Pysz, who operated Aloha Photography, was engaged to be married at the time of his illness.

The family was unavailable for comment yesterday.

Pysz, born on June 13, 1953, in Michigan, is survived by his mother, Elizabeth; and three brothers, Dennis, Frank and John Pysz.

A memorial will be held 2 p.m. Saturday at Mala Wharf in Lahaina. In lieu of flowers, donations may be made toward a living memorial.


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