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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Tuesday, April 6, 2004

Fatal infection appears isolated

By Mike Gordon
Advertiser Staff Writer

The incubation period for an illness suspected in the death of a 21-year-old University of Hawai'i student last month appears to have passed without anyone else getting sick, state health officials said yesterday.

Travis Mitsuda was a former standout baseball catcher at Iolani School.

Mitsuda family photo

They stressed that it is an isolated case and that the public should not be worried.

The exact cause of death will not be known until tests are completed at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, said Laura Lott, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Health. Lott did not know how long that would take to complete.

Family members identified the man as Travis Mitsuda, a former standout baseball catcher at Iolani School where he graduated in 2001. He was also a bullpen catcher for the UH Rainbows in 2002. He died March 25 at home as friends tried to get him to a doctor. Mitsuda's funeral was on Saturday.

"He was a great kid, a good friend to many," said his father, Dan Mitsuda. "It's tough. But his friends and parents of friends have been real supportive. You never expect to lose a son."

Dan Mitsuda said the family was told the infection was in his son's lungs.

Health officials said they would remain cautious until they know more about the illness. They would not speculate publicly on the cause.

"If it is the bacteria we are suspicious of, it is not uncommon but it is not common either," said Dr. Lisa Hendrickson of the health department's disease outbreak control division. "People don't have to be worried."

Hendrickson said antibiotics have been given to 90 people who came in contact with Mitsuda in the days leading up to his death.

"There are suspicions that there is something that could be infectious and contagious and fatal," she said. "We are jumping the gun to be on the safe side and cautious. There has been no secondary infection. That was our concern. But it appears that this was an isolated case."

Travis Mitsuda was a junior at UH and worked for the A-Plus program at Manoa School.

But because Mitsuda had not been to the program for two weeks before his death, health officials think none of the elementary students were infected, Hendrickson said.

"We believe the school is totally safe," Hendrickson said. "He had not been there recently."

Mitsuda's father remembered him as a loving son.

"He had two sides," Dan Mitsuda said. "With friends, he was fun-loving. With family he was very compassionate. He'd always give his mom a hug. He always came to family gatherings, no matter what."

Dan Mitsuda visited his son at his Kaimuki apartment the day before he died. Although none of his son's roommates was sick — and have remained healthy since — Dan Mitsuda remembers Travis coughing.

"I told him he should see a doctor," Dan Mitsuda said. "The response was, 'I'm OK, no problem.' I just wish I had insisted he go."

Reach Mike Gordon at mgordon@honoluluadvertiser.com or 525-8012.