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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Friday, November 2, 2001

Five new dengue cases, including Big Island's first

 •  Special report: Dengue fever: health crisis in the making

By Yasmin Anwar
Advertiser Staff Writer

The first case of dengue fever has been confirmed on the Big Island, according to the latest numbers reported yesterday by the state Department of Health.

Five new dengue cases were added to official tallies of the outbreak that has infected 74 people on Maui, O'ahu, Kaua'i and now the Big Island.

Three new cases are in Kane'ohe, one is in the Hana area and one in Pahoa on the Big Island.

As yet, epidemiologists cannot determine the origins of the Pahoa case. The man has no recent travel history. Nor has he visited dengue hot spots such as East Maui, the South Pacific or Southeast Asia.

Though dengue cases continue to sprout in new areas, health officials say the overall rise in the mosquito-borne disease is hardly epidemic.

"I'm encouraged that we haven't seen the numbers increase dramatically in any of the areas," said state Health Director Bruce Anderson.

He says aggressive community-based mosquito eradication efforts are the most effective means of stopping the spread of the disease.

In recent days, the state Health Department has been canvassing homes along the the Windward Coast on O'ahu to teach people how to remove mosquito-breeding grounds. And since the outbreak surfaced in East Maui in June, more than 1,300 locations around the state have been sprayed with insecticides.

More than 300 suspected dengue cases are under investigation, but health officials predict few of those will turn out to be dengue.

Nonetheless, Anderson said he expects that many people have been exposed to the dengue virus, but have not shown symptoms of the disease.

Hawai'i's last major dengue outbreak was in 1943 and was limited to O'ahu. However, it's possible that there have been mini-outbreaks since then that were misdiagnosed.

That's why epidemiologists are conducting surveys to determine whether Hawai'i residents, particularly those living in the rainforest areas of East Maui, may have been exposed to dengue strains other than the DEN-1 serotype identified in this outbreak.

Dengue fever is a virus spread via aedes mosquitoes. The carrier in Hawai'i is believed to be the Aedes albopictus, also known as the Asian tiger mosquito.

Within a few days of being bitten, victims with classic dengue fever typically suffer from high fever, headaches, nausea, muscle and joint pains and rash. The more serious dengue hemorrhagic fever has a fatality rate of 5 percent. No one in Hawai'i so far has been hospitalized with serious dengue symptoms.