East Hawaii News

No New Dengue Cases Confirmed as Hookena Prepares to Reopen

February 29, 2016, 3:31 PM HST
* Updated March 1, 1:57 PM
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Hawai'i County Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira. File photo.

Hawai’i County Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira. File photo.

The dengue fever case count on the Big Island remains at 260 as no new cases of dengue have been confirmed since Wednesday, Feb. 24.

Hawai’i Department of Health officials also continue to list no “potentially infectious” individuals. No one has been at risk of infecting a mosquito since DOH reported one possible case last Tuesday.

Hawai’i County Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira told Big Island Now Monday morning that Hookena Beach Park is on set to reopen on Tuesday, as announced late last week.

The beach park has been closed since Nov. 4, when an influx of dengue cases were linked to the area.

Oliveira said that reopening is the result of no cases being reported in the area since Nov. 11, and numerous actions against the risk of infected mosquitoes have been taken in the area. The closure period of nearly three months also has allowed for mosquitoes potentially infected to have lived out their life span.

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“We are on tap with opening Ho’okena Beach Park tomorrow morning, and that’s for full use, inclusive of camping,” Oliveira said. “We’re able to make these kinds of decisions based on the help we get from the community. The community is doing an awesome job with appreciating and following the guidance with the Fight the Bite campaign.”

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Two dengue-related closures remain in effect on the island: Milolii, which closed on Dec. 24, and Waipio Valley, closed on Jan. 13.

Oliveira said efforts to communicate with the Waipio community would continue Monday evening, noting that they planned to head out and speak with community members about the outbreak and resources.

Both Milolii and Waipio may also be on the road to reopening soon, explained by Oliveira as a balance between risk levels and other things like economic factors and tourism in places like Waipio Valley.

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Infrequent additions to the overall case count and a “potentially infectious” count of zero doesn’t mean the risk of contracting dengue is out of the woods.

“We see a lot of things looking in our favor: the numbers going down, the weather also playing a role in this, although we’re going through a drought, and that brings its own issues, but its helping with the mosquito population issues,” Oliveria said while also noting the importance of staying vigilant.

Wearing mosquito repellent and continuing to follow DOH’s guidelines for reduced risk of infection, including property management, have aided in the reduction of cases, according to Oliveira, who said those actions need to continue.

“The number of dengue cases has declined, as far as frequency, however, the outbreak is not over. Residents need to maintain vigilance and continue to Fight the Bite,” Oliveira said.

Over the past week, 53 cases have been excluded from the overall count. This includes 12 cases excluded between Friday and Monday afternoons. Cases excluded have either tested negative for the virus and/or have not met case criteria.

While many people may believe a lack of confirmed cases may mean the Big Island is headed in the right direction, officials say the necessary ingredient to being dengue-free is time.

DOH, Civil Defense, Community Response Teams, and community partners began door-to-door dengue education outreach in Kailua-Kona on Feb. 17. The outreach efforts have continued.

Oliveira said the efforts sparked from something in the area that tied the cases together, as well as several workers being infected with the virus.

“We wanted to go out there and make sure people are aware, even as far as restaurant dinning areas, that people are actively fighting the bite and offering repellent or taking preventative actions,” Oliveira said.

Community meetings are being held through the month of February on a weekly basis in both East and West Hawai’i.

Hilo sessions take place on Thursdays at 11:30 a.m. at the State Office Building, located on Aupuni Street. Kona sessions are held at the same time, but at the West Hawai’i Civic Center Mayor’s Conference Room.

Tuesday sessions are being held at Yano Hall in Captain Cook, beginning at 12:30 p.m.

The community meetings provide updates and answers to questions from the community about the dengue fever outbreak on the Big Island, as well as education about the prevalence, transmission, and symptoms of dengue fever, along with outbreak response efforts, how to interpret case counts and maps, and the best ways to “Fight the Bite.”

Symptoms of dengue fever include fever, joint or muscle pain, 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 are located in East Hawai‘i or 322-4877 in West Hawai‘i. If an individual is currently ill and concerned that they may have contracted dengue fever, they should contact their primary care physician.

Civil Defense suggests the following to aid in reducing potential mosquito breeding areas around homes and businesses:

  • Remove or eliminate standing water that provides sources for mosquito breeding such as buckets or puddles.
  • Fix leaky faucets and outdoor hoses that are dripping water.
  • Treat bromeliads and other plants that hold water with a larvacide or chlorine bleach solution.
  • Clean gutters to allow water to drain freely.
  • Repair screens and windows to help keep mosquitoes out.
  • Dispose of old tires at no charge at county transfer stations islandwide.

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

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