HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – While the state Department of Health said there is no evidence of a widespread outbreak; a physician contacted by Hawaii News Now said there has been an increase in the number of reported cases of impetigo, a bacterial skin infection that often strikes children.
"It's a very big problem and it's becoming a big problem nationwide too, but I believe our problem has been going on for decades and almost every day we see many patients, in patient or out patient, with impetigo," said Dr. Guliz Erdem, a Pediatric Infectious Disease Specialist at Kapiolani Medical Center for Women and Children.
Hawaii News Now asked about impetigo after getting a call from a woman in Waianae who said all six of her children (ages 12 and younger) have been infected.
"My daughter came home from school with these little, looked mosquito bites, was on her legs. And I was concerned," said Ronnie Lomavita.
Lomavita did the right thing. She took her daughter to a physician and got antibiotics. But before the blisters caused by the infection cleared, Lomavita's other children became infected.
Lomavita suspects her children contracted the disease at school (Waianae Elementary School). A Department of Education spokeswoman said there is no indication of an outbreak of impetigo at the school. The Department of Health told Hawaii News Now impetigo is one of the most common skin infections among children and, while it does not track the number of infections, it does not believe there is an outbreak.
Erdem said impetigo is caused by two kinds of bacteria, staphylococcus and streptococcus.
"It's a very common simple soft tissue infection again named impetigo meaning a small pus collection over your skin, sometimes extending underneath the skin and it is very common in tropical areas. It's quite common unfortunately in certain ethnic populations here - Pacific Islanders, Native Hawaiians," Erdem said.
Untreated, impetigo can spread and in rare cases cause kidney damage.
Doctor Erdem said visiting busy emergency rooms is probably not necessary. Instead she advises scheduling a visit with a physician. Antibiotics can rid a person of impetigo in as little as a week.
"It's a short course treatment and if it is very simple occasionally we will not need to treat, but we still need to know what's causing the infection," Erdem said.
Washing cuts and scrapes can prevent impetigo, but sometimes not even the best hygiene stop it.