Bacteria Infection Keeps Man on Life Support

Francis Pien, M.D.
Francis Pien, M.D.

(KHNL) - The 34-year-old Waikiki man who fell into the Ala Wai Boat Harbor last week is still fighting for his life.

His friends believe it's because he fell into polluted waters.

State health officials say there's no proof of any connection and now medical experts are reminding the public that anyone can get a bacterial infection.

A small cut on your body can be your biggest enemy. It's almost like an open door to bacteria, which could lead to a serious infection.

"Because the toxins destroy tissue, when it destroys tissue, the body tries to fight back and that can cause an over immune kind of situation," said Francis Pien, M.D., infectious disease specialist.

That can lead to kidney, liver and lung failure and sometimes, death.

Dr. Pien says some bacteria live in water all the time, like the type that was identified in Oliver Johnson's infection. But others, like staph, can live on your skin. That means, you don't have to be in contact with polluted waters to catch an infection. In fact, you don't even need to have a cut on your body to be vulnerable.

People who are more susceptible are those who are overweight or diabetic. Also, those who don't have good hygiene or someone who just had surgery. Even those who are physically active.

"People that are physically active sweat a lot, cut themselves, they'll be exposed to water and other health hazards," said Pien.

The best thing you can do is keep your cuts clean, put antiseptic on the wound and monitor it. If it doesn't go away in a couple of days, visit your doctor.