lepto-hawaii-streams-water
Maunawili Falls

There are a lot of pretty waterfalls and streams in Hawaii. If you like to hike and love the outdoors in Hawaii then you’re more than likely to come across a stream or two.  If you set out to find a waterfall at the end of a fun and exhilarating Hawaiian hike, then all the power to you!  I’ve done a couple on Oahu and they’re gorgeous.

Leptospirosis in Hawaii

Just be aware of the possible debilitating and fatal bacteria that could possibly await you.

Unfortunately, that last sentence isn’t a lie. It may be a bit dramatic but it is true.

What is Leptospirosis:

Lepto is a bacterial infection that causes flu like symptoms that range from mild to severe.  Leptosira are the bacteria and they are spread through the urine of infected animals.  People catch lepto when the leptospirosis bacteria that is in streams, mud or animal urine gets in to their eyes, mouth, nose or broken skin.

How People Get Infected with Lepto:

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  • Swimming, hiking, wading and fishing in freshwater ponds and streams or streams contaminated with animal urine.
  • Farming, gardening and touching soil that has been infected with animal urine.
  • Touching the urine, flesh, tissues, and blood of animals infected with the leptospirosis bacteria.
  • Drinking contaminated fresh water. (i.e. streams and ponds while camping or hiking)
  • Being exposed to flood waters.

Symptoms of Lepto:

Symptoms will usually become evident between 7 to 14 days after being infected.

  • Mild Symptoms:  Fever, headache, chills, muscle aches, body pains, red eyes, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, sweating, weakness and loss of appetite.
  • Severe Symptoms:  Stiff neck, yellowing of skin and eyes (jaundice), heart failure, blood in cough, kidney failure, damage to the liver, and death.

Tips to Avoid Getting Leptospirosis in Hawaii:

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  1. Avoid wading, hiking or swimming in freshwater streams and lakes while you have open wounds.  If swimming then don’t put your head underwater.
  2. Protect your open wounds, mouth, and nose when working in moist soil or water, clearing vegetation, taking care of pets or livestock, farming, gardening, prawning, fishing, hunting, and butchering-gutting-cleaning animals.
  3. Protect Yourself by:  Wearing gloves, sleeves, boots, waders, pants and googles (depending on your activity).
  4. IF you need to drink water when hiking or camping then make sure you boil vigorously for at least 1 minute.  Also, you can chemically treat it.  Warning:  Filters MAY NOT WORK.
  5. Control rodents in and around your property by killing, trapping and/or poisoning.  Don’t let them near water or trash/garbage.  Be mindful of mongooses at all times.
  6. See a veterinarian about vaccinating your farm animals and pets against leptospirosis in Hawaii.
  7. Drain standing water.

Who to Call if Lepto is suspected or for more information:

Offices of Disease Outbreak Control Division-

  • Oahu: 808-586-4586
  • Maui: 808-984-8213
  • Kauai: 808-241-3563
  • East Big Island: 808-933-0912
  • West Big Island: 808-322-4877

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