Where can you find the bacteria that sent patient to hospital?


KHON2 was the first to tell you that the state Department of Health is looking into a case involving vibrio, a bacteria that can make you really sick. It can even kill you.

Today we found out more about where you can catch it.

In April 2006, 34-year-old Oliver Johnson fell into the water at the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor and died from vibrio.

Water experts say vibrio can be found in any warm coastal waters like the harbor, and is a naturally occurring bacteria.

The state says two-thirds of all vibrio related cases in Hawaii involve patients who had an open wound, and went into brackish or salt water. The wound then got infected.

Since Hawaii is surrounded by water and people often spend a lot of time in the ocean, we dug a little deeper.

We reached out to experts to find out where high concentration of vibrio can be found, what causes levels to be elevated, and how often do officials test for this bacteria.

“As far as water testing goes, we don’t normally test it unless there is a specific reason,” Watson Okubo monitoring and analysis supervisor at the Clean Water Branch of the Department of Health explained. “It is a naturally occurring bacteria, and basically for a healthy person these type of bacteria is not a problem.”

Okubo also said vibrio is found in places where people often visit.

“On Oahu, of course the Ala Wai Yacht Harbor. On the Big Island, we have it on the Ahalanui Thermal Pond. And pretty much you can find it in Keehi Lagoon, Pearl Harbor, Hilo Bay…” Okubo said.

Health officials say people who have weak immune systems or liver issues are more likely to get an infection.

As for the patient was hospitalized for vibrio, we learned that patient has died but officials do not know the cause of death at this time.


The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that vibriosis causes an estimated 80,000 illnesses and 100 deaths in the United States every year.

The latest multi-state outbreak was in 2013 that was linked to several Atlantic Coast harvest areas. It did not include Hawaii.

Reduce your risk of vibriosis by following these tips:

  • Don’t eat raw or undercooked oysters or other shellfish. Cook them before eating.
  • Always wash your hands with soap and water after handing raw shellfish.
  • Avoid contaminating cooked shellfish with raw shellfish and its juices.
  • Stay out of brackish or salt water if you have a wound (including cuts and scrapes), or cover your wound with a waterproof bandage if there’s a possibility it could come into
    contact with brackish or salt water, raw seafood, or raw seafood juices.
  • Wash wounds and cuts thoroughly with soap and water if they have been exposed to seawater or raw seafood or its juices.
  • If you develop a skin infection, tell your medical provider if your skin has come into contact with brackish or salt water, raw seafood, or raw seafood juices.
  • Opening oyster with gloves on

More information from the CDC: https://www.cdc.gov/vibrio/index.html

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