Dengue fever may be spreading in Hawai'i
By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui County Bureau
State health officials offered more troubling news about the dengue fever outbreak yesterday, saying they now have suspected locally transmitted cases on O'ahu, Kaua'i and the Big Island.
The Health Department will offer a daily dengue fever update at www.state.hi.us/doh
"We are very concerned,'' said Health Department spokeswoman Janice Okubo.
Previous confirmed cases on O'ahu, Kaua'i and the Big Island involved patients who were infected with the mosquito-borne virus while in foreign countries. The new suspected cases involve patients with no recent travel history.
As of noon yesterday, 19 cases of dengue fever have been laboratory confirmed, all from East Maui. The latest are three cases in Ha'iku, Okubo said.
None of the confirmed East Maui cases has recent travel history off island, verifying the first documented local transmission of dengue fever in more than 50 years.
The number of suspected cases in the current outbreak has reached 116, a figure that includes one case from Ka'a'awa, O'ahu; one from Anahola, Kaua'i; and four from Kailua-Kona, Hawai'i. In all of the cases, the patients had no recent travel history off their islands.
Officials have a rapid field test that has good success in predicting whether the CDC will confirm a case of dengue. Only the Anahola case was tested, and the results were positive, Okubo said.
Okubo said the department is conducting "high surveillance'' on clinics and hospitals on all islands and is planning to disseminate additional information to educate the public across the state. That probably will include passing out information at airports, she said.
Dengue fever is a viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes in tropical and subtropical areas of the world. Symptoms, which include high fever, severe headaches, joint and muscle pain and rash, may last up to 10 days, but complete recovery can take two to four weeks.
A number of Pacific and Asian nations, including Tahiti and the Philippines, have been racked by dengue fever epidemics this year. Thousands have been infected and numerous deaths have been reported, mostly among young children.
Preventing further spread of dengue in Hawai'i will require a sustained, community-based effort of mosquito control combined with judicious use of insecticides, officials said.
All Hawai'i residents, not only East Maui residents, are being urged to keep their properties free of sites where mosquitoes can breed.
"At this point we have a window of opportunity to take aggressive measures to prevent this from spreading,'' Okubo said. "We need everyone to do their part.''