Maui residents fear spread of dengue fever
By Timothy Hurley
Advertiser Maui County Bureau
Many East Maui residents are on edge as they wonder just how big the area's outbreak of dengue fever will get.
"Were all concerned. Obviously, it's a serious matter,'' said Hana Realtor Carl Lindquist, who made sure he used a generous amount of mosquito repellent when he worked in the garden on Sunday.
State Health Department officials met with Hana residents yesterday in the first community-wide meeting since federal health officials last week confirmed that four people had contracted dengue fever over the summer. It is the first time in more than 50 years that the mosquito-borne disease has been transmitted in the Islands. In previous cases, patients became infected while traveling overseas.
Twenty-seven more cases are pending confirmation by the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said Janice Okubo, a Health Department spokeswoman.
There were no reported cases of dengue fever in Hawai'i last year, and only 17 cases in the past four years before that.
Health officials said they plan to launch an aggressive mosquito control effort using Permanone 10 percent EC, a Permethrin-based insecticide.
Employees from Maui's vector control staff have already started spraying at homes in the infected areas of Lower Nahiku and Hamoa, and Okubo said the department is considering whether to bring additional personnel from O'ahu.
For 19-year-old Mahina Stoner and her family, it's too late for any preventive action. She came down with the disease in late August, spending an agonizing week in bed with a high fever, severe headaches, joint and muscle pain and a rash. It took her another week to recover.
"It's such a terrible thing to get,'' she said, adding that her parents contracted the fever as well.
Stoner, of Lower Nahiku, said she doesn't know how she acquired the disease, other than from the bite of a mosquito. She now worries about getting infected with another form of dengue fever. The second case can be much more serious, and, in some cases, fatal.
"I want them to come spray now,'' she said.
Meanwhile, some are wondering how the outbreak will affect tourism in East Maui.
"It's a triple whammy,'' said Harry Hasegawa, president of Hana's Hasegawa General Store. "September is a slow month, and then we got the attack on New York. Now this. Too bad something like this has to happen. What's next?''