East Hawaii News

Gabbard Urges Ige to Declare State of Emergency on Dengue

January 29, 2016, 2:22 PM HST
* Updated January 29, 2:34 PM
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An Aedes aegypti mosquito is pictured here. The mosquito is one of two in Hawai'i known to spread the dengue virus. Hawai'i Department of Health photo.

An Aedes aegypti mosquito is pictured here. The mosquito is one of two in Hawai’i known to spread the dengue virus. Hawai’i Department of Health photo.

Representative Tulsi Gabbard called on Governor David Ige Friday to declare the Big Island dengue fever outbreak a state of emergency.

Under a state of emergency, state funds and assistance would be made available to the island.

In Representative Gabbard’s call, she suggested that resources could assist with mosquito abatement, public information, clearing, and providing free testing to individuals with suspected symptoms of dengue fever.

On Friday, one additional case was added to the confirmed number of dengue fever. In addition, Hawai’i Department of Health officials listed two individuals as “potentially infectious.”

“The dengue fever outbreak on the Big Island continues to worsen.  We cannot afford to wait any longer for the aggressive action necessary to combat the spread of this serious disease.  An emergency proclamation from the Governor is long overdue,” said Representative Gabbard.  “There have already been 242 confirmed cases of Dengue Fever on Hawaiʻi Island, creating a public health emergency affecting our residents and visitors, and Hawai’i Island’s economy.  They deserve our state’s full attention and resources to do what it takes to put an end to this outbreak, and prevent it from becoming endemic and spreading to other parts of the island and state.”

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Representative Gabbard said that on Oct. 21 the Big Island dengue exposure rate was 1 in 185,079. As of Friday, one out of 849 residents and about three out of every 50,000 visitors has contracted dengue.

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In speaking with Governor Ige and by written correspondence, the Congresswoman called for the following action items to be addressed immediately:

  1. Completely free and accessible testing for those who suspect they have symptoms of Dengue Fever. While the cost of the test may be free, residents and visitors are still charged for visits to a physician, nurse, or clinic in order for their blood to be drawn.  This could easily be solved by ensuring there are free access points island-wide, and by deploying state or National Guard medical personnel as a mobile testing unit that can travel to both populated and remote locations across the island, draw blood, and get samples to the lab for expedited results.
  2. Allocate resources to the Department of Health for development and execution of a comprehensive public information and public engagement campaign with quality review measures.  Current “Fight the Bite” efforts fall far short of providing residents and visitors with the information they need.
  3. Provide a full-time entomologist on Hawaiʻi Island dedicated to eradication, reduction, and prevention of further spread of the Dengue virus.
  4. Allocate resources to hire vector control personnel, purchase more sprayers and other necessary equipment and supplies.
  5. Provide free supply and distribution of Ovitraps throughout the community to empower local residents to help prevent the spread of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. World Health Organization report studies have shown that population densities can be reduced below disease-transmission thresholds with sufficiently large numbers of frequently serviced traps.
  6. Appoint a Dengue Czar who can act as the coordinator of efforts with all parties within the state, county, federal, private sector, and community to ensure the objectives are being met.

Congresswoman Gabbard represents District 2, which includes the Big Island

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