Doctors see rise in skin infections and rashes after Kauai flooding

Local News

Landslides blocking Kuhio Highway are preventing people on Kauai’s north shore from receiving medical attention. 

A small team of doctors, nurses, and paramedics from the Hawaii Healthcare Emergency Management’s Disaster Medical Team flew in to care for isolated residents in Wainiha and Haena.

Most of the injuries have been minor. Doctors want to make sure it stays that way. 

Also called the Kalawao Rescue, the deployable medical response and recovery team are volunteer professionals. 

They flew in on Friday and set up a makeshift Urgent Care clinic at the Hanalei Colony Resort hotel in Haena. 

Doctor James Ireland flew to Kauai from Oahu with a team of medical professionals, armed with much-needed medicine – like antibiotics, topical ointments, prescription medicine and tetanus shots.  

Getting there, however, was a challenge. 

The doctors hitched a ride with the Department of Natural Land and Resources employees on ATV’s as they navigated through dangerous landslides. 

“We would go, stop, there’d be a bunch of mud, debris, and bunch of people working to clear the highway. We’d get passed that, a few hundred yards later…the same thing. In some places the road was only 5 feet wide and 8 or 10 feet of mud, on both sides. And excavators are digging for us to get through. There’s no way a car, even a 4 wheel drive could get through,” explained Ireland. 

From Friday to Monday, the medical professionals saw 140 patients with varying needs. 

Doctors saw children with cases of diarrhea.  Patients were treated for rashes and infected cuts and wounds. 

“They’re walking around in floodwaters contaminated with sewage. That leads to infections that can be life-threatening,” said Ireland. 

“There is a lot of standing water, so wound care issues are a concern. A lot of clean-up is happening,” added paramedic Chris Crabtree, who serves as the team commander for Kalawao Rescue.  

The team is monitoring residents in Wainiha and Haena for signs of staph infections, E coli, or leptospirosis.
Leptospirosis is an infectious disease caused by bacteria, which can lead to potentially fatal infections of the kidney, liver, brain, lung or heart.  

“Anytime you have contaminated water or water run off, leptospiriosis is a concern. It’s probably too early with incubation. But folks need to be on the watch for that in the weeks to come, because exposure to dirty water is a risk factor,” said Ireland. 

Crabtree says some patients also have breathing problems, likely from mold. 

“There’s reports there is a lot of mold. We’re working to educate them. They’re very akamai, very smart.”

Kalawao Rescue says they’re prepared to stay there for as long as needed and have been receiving medical supply donations. 
Due to standing water, Kalawao Rescue says the need for boots to navigate through the muddy waters is essential. 

Crabtree says they received donations of boots from donors like the Wilcox Medical Center. 

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