East Hawaii News

DOH: Understanding Dengue Fever Testing

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As the Big Island dengue fever outbreak continues to affect the island, the Hawai’i Department of Health provided an inside look at the testing conducted by the DOH’s Laboratories Division.

On Thursday afternoon, DOH officials announced that the dengue number hadn’t risen in the prior 24 hours as it held at 145 confirmed cases.

There are two main test types conducted by laboratory officials for the dengue fever virus. Each of the tests conducted aim to provide verification of the disease in the body system of an individual suspected of the disease.

The first of the tests is the Virus 1-4 Real-Time Reverse Transcriptase-Polymerase Chain Reaction Assay. Genetic material for the virus is detected by the test when it is present in the blood. All four dengue types are detected and differentiated by the test, according to officials.

Usage of the Real-Time Reverse Transcriptase-Polymerase Chain Reaction Assay is when a patient has been sick for one week or less. It is used daily as a means of outbreak support and results are ready in two to three business days from the time a sample is received.


The second test, an antibody test, is used when individuals have been sick for more a week. The tests take a look at antibodies produced by the immune system as it attempts to eliminate the dengue virus.

A commercial assay is used in the antibody test to detect antibodies that form early in the infection, called IgM antibodies. The testing is used as outbreak support and results are available from the test in two to three business days from receiving the sample.

“The Hawai’i State Department of Health Laboratories Division’s top priority is to ensure the health and safety of Hawai’i residents and visitors,” said Dr. Chris Whelen, the State Laboratories Administrator. “The State Laboratories play a key role in outbreak investigations by providing testing resources within the state and coordinating with local and national laboratory response networks.”

According to Whelen, about 50 to 60 specimens are able to be tested on a daily basis. The number is about to “surge to triple that capacity, if necessay.”


State laboratories are reportedly not experiencing a backlog of either of the tests.

Dengue fever is spread through mosquito contact. Mosquitos carrying the illness from an infected individual is able to transfer the disease to another individual through mosquito bites.

Symptoms of dengue fever include fever, joint or muscle paints, headache or pain behind the eyes, and rash.

Those interested in obtaining general information about the current Big Island dengue fever investigation should call 2-1-1 and talk with Aloha United Way.


Anyone who thinks they may have contracted dengue fever on the Big Island should call 933-0912 if they’re located in East Hawai’i or 322-4877 in West Hawai’i. If an individual is currently ill and worried that they may have contracted dengue fever, they should contact their primary care physician.

Mosquito concerns should be reported to 974-6010 in East Hawai’i or 322-1513 in West Hawai’i.

For more information, visit the DOH website.

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