April 27, 2004
HONOLULU – The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) is
cautioning residents and visitors to protect themselves against
leptospirosis. An increase in the number of cases reported to DOH - 21
cases this year, compared to only four for the same period last year
– has health officials encouraging people to take preventative
To reduce the risk of contracting leptospirosis:
- Do not swim, wade or play in fresh water or mud when you have cuts
- When swimming, do not place your head underwater.
- Do not drink stream water, without boiling or chemically treating
- Keep water catchment collection areas free from overhanging
branches and prevent access to these areas by animals.
- Drain potentially contaminated areas of standing water.
- Control rats, mice and mongooses around the home and at work sites.
(Call the Department of Health Vector Control Branch on each island for
- Vaccinate pets and farm animals.
Known exposure sites and all state and county parks that have fresh
water streams or ponds are regularly posted with leptospirosis warning
signs. Residents and visitors should use additional caution when coming
in contact with fresh water.
“It is a concern that so many cases have occurred during a
normally low incidence period,” said David Sasaki, DVM, DOH
Disease Outbreak Control Division. “Historically two-thirds of
our leptospirosis cases occur during the second half of the year,
during the warmer weather when there is increased outdoor activity and
more people swim in fresh water streams.”
Leptospirosis is a bacterial disease that is primarily carried by
rats and mice, although dogs, pigs, cattle and horses can also become
infected. The disease is generally transmitted to humans by exposure to
fresh water that is contaminated with urine from infected animals.
Infection can take place when contaminated water enters the body
through the mouth, nose, eyes or open wounds.
Individuals who develop flu-like symptoms (high fever, severe
headaches, muscle aches, nausea and vomiting) and have had fresh water,
mud or animal exposure during the preceding three weeks, should
immediately see a physician and inform the doctor of any environmental
exposures and skin wounds.
For More Information Contact:
Department of Health
Phone: (808) 586-4442
Laura M. Lott
Department of Health
Phone: (808) 586-4418