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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, November 29, 2001

Rain renews dengue fever fears

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

By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Staff Writer

The stormy weather that just raked over the Islands has raised fears that Hawai'i's dengue fever outbreak could flare up.

State health officials yesterday urged residents to be especially vigilant about getting rid of the standing water around their homes, where mosquitoes can breed.

"It applies anytime, but particularly after heavy rains,'' said Bruce Anderson, director of the Department of Health.

Anderson said heavy rain results in more mosquito breeding — and more mosquitoes would mean a greater chance of disease transmission.

"If people are vigilant about controlling mosquitoes, we would not expect a surge of new cases. But if they're not, we could see it flare up anywhere in the state,'' he said.

The department has been running a campaign for weeks urging residents to earmark Sundays for the removal of items on their property such as jars, cans, tubs, barrels and tires that collect rainwater.

Eighty-eight cases of dengue fever have been confirmed statewide, with 64 of those cases occurring on Maui. The department reported a new confirmed case on Monday, but that one dated back to August. The last confirmed case was recorded on Nov. 4.

Health officials remain upbeat about the progress being made toward controlling the outbreak.

"The numbers are going the right way,'' Anderson said. "But we can't say we have the problem licked until a generation of mosquitoes have gone by — about two months.''

This week's rains aren't making things any easier, he said.

On Maui, meanwhile, the county is preparing to launch a team to fight the dengue fever outbreak under the $1.5 million program established last month at a special session of the Legislature to help employ workers laid off since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. The team will be part of the Emergency Environmental Workforce.

Maui County, which will receive nearly half of the 217 positions earmarked for the three-month project, held a recruitment meeting Monday in Hana and signed up the first 33 workers.

Myles Inokuma, an aide to Maui Mayor James "Kimo'' Apana, said supplies are being assembled and the workers will be sent into the field in East Maui starting Monday to clear and treat potential mosquito breeding grounds.

The crew will at some point also work on the eradication of the invasive tree species miconia, Inokuma said.

In addition to the Maui crew, unemployed workers are being recruited on O'ahu, the Big Island and Kaua'i.