HONOLULU, Hawaii (HawaiiNewsNow) - Davey Temple was playing with her grandchildren recently in waters off Waikiki when she got cut by coral.
“I stepped on coral so that was it. I washed it. Everything was fine," she said.
“Three days later, my leg just blew up.”
She pointed out where the cut on her foot became infected and turned into necrotizing fasciitis, or flesh-eating disease. There’s a scar left by surgery.
The episode comes amid increased concern among oceangoers about what’s in the water off some of Hawaii’s most famous coastlines ― and whether it could make them sick.
Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist at the Department of Health, said doctors haven’t seen any increase in flesh-eating disease in patients.
The diagnosis is considered uncommon but not rare.
She also said that higher or lower bacteria counts in the water doesn’t necessarily correlate with disease rates. Bacteria is everywhere in the environment, she said, and severe infections can happen from the simplest of cuts.
"There's no rhyme or reason why someone gets a particularly bad infection than someone else except we know it can be prevented," she said.
Avid surfer Guy Steele also got an infection after going into the water.
He said he got sepsis and cellulitis after getting cut by rock while surfing at Waimea Bay. He went swimming in the brown water after a heavy rain, but the waves were too inviting.
“There were three guys out at a spot that would normally have 20, 40 and as a surfer that’s hard to resist. I don’t have the discipline to resist that. My brain said no, my heart said yes,” he said.
The infection in his foot went to the bone.
Steele added that he’s gotten other infections and illnesses after being in the ocean. Both Steele and Temple worry about sewage, pollutants and chemicals in our water.
"It's an egregious mismanagement of our environment," said Steele.
Park said if you do get a cut in the water, clean it thoroughly.
“If there’s no soap available, just flush the hell out of it with fresh, good clean water,” said Park.
If you develop redness, heat from the injury or get a fever, see your doctor right away.