2 Oahu men contract rare, potentially lethal infection

HONOLULU — Two people who were diagnosed with a rare and potentially lethal type of leptospirosis on Oahu were hospitalized after their organs began shutting down.

Dr. Scott Miscovich, a family medicine physician in Kaneohe, said he was alarmed after treating both men for Weil’s disease, a severe type of the bacterial infection that can cause organ failure and death, the Honolulu Star-Advertiser reported Thursday.

Both men had small cuts on their feet and walked through muddy waters before getting flu-like symptoms about a week later.

The doctor, who has been practicing medicine for 30 years, alerted the state Health Department after laboratory tests came back positive for Weil’s disease. State Health Department officials could not be reached for an immediate comment.

After a series of antibiotics, both men were discharged from the hospital, but are still recovering.

Miscovich says he wants people to be aware that the symptoms can act like the flu. He says a lot of people will try to let it run its course but that early treatment is important. He said doctors should check with patients to see if they have been exposed to waterfalls, streams and ponds or other standing water and mud that house the bacteria.

The aggressive form of leptospirosis is fatal in 10 percent of cases, Miscovich said, adding that there are only 200 cases diagnosed in the United States each year, half of them in Hawaii.

Miscovich said the disease “immediately and very rapidly begins to shut down the liver and kidneys.”

“After the kidney and liver, it started to break down the lung tissues,” he said of one of the two recent cases. The patient was “bleeding from his lungs and almost drowned in his blood.”

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