East Hawaii News

Thirty-Day Milestone Reached in Big Island Dengue Outbreak

April 27, 2016, 3:05 PM HST
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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.

State and Hawai’i County officials gathered on Oahu Wednesday to “celebrate” a milestone in the Big Island’s dengue fever outbreak and response.

No new locally acquired cases of dengue fever have been confirmed in the past 30 days, according to the Hawai’i Department of Health.

A total of 264 Big Island dengue fever cases have been confirmed, beginning with the first known case whose onset of illness was Sept. 11, 2015. The most recent onset of illness is listed as March 17.

In a press conference, Governor David Ige, DOH Director Dr. Virgina Pressler, and Hawai’i County Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira said that despite the slow down, the outbreak will not be declared over.

Two weeks ago, Governor Ige extended an emergency proclamation for combating mosquito-borne illnesses another 60 days. That proclamation, the governor said, will remain in effect throughout its duration, until mid-June.

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“We just wanted to make sure we could provide an update on the situation. We are proud of the work done,” said Governor Ige. “I would like to remind everyone that we still have an emergency proclamation that is enforced.”

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The initial state-level proclamation was declared on Feb. 12, four days after a county-wide emergency declaration was made by Big Island Mayor Billy Kenoi.

“We’re always vulnerable to these kinds of threats, and although we’re seeing a decline in the number of confirmed cases, it’s been some time since we’re had a confirmed case,” said Oliveira. “But by no means are we out of the clear with any future threat or introduced virus or problem. We need to continue vigilance on everyone’s part.”

DOH’s Vector Control team conducted a total of 523 surveys on private properties and another 310 in public spaces. Oliveira said the public overall was “very cooperative” in the efforts.

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In total 220, spraying and treatments occurred on private properties, along with 65 public spaces.

Spraying operations and clean-up efforts continue. The activities are part of the next phase of response efforts that move from a urgent response, according to Oliveira, to sustained maintenance and prevention.

Hookena Beach was closed on Monday for spraying as part of spraying maintenance. In addition, 11 Hawai’i National Guard soldiers have participated in clean-up efforts removing tires from 11 identified problem areas. The soldiers have been participating in efforts since last week and will be active for the next 20 days. In total bout 1,485 tires have been removed as of Tuesday, according to Major General Arthur “Joe” Logan, State Adjutant General and Director of the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency.

All agencies are continuing to work on a comprehensive response plan that includes the entire state, branching out to create communication plans with all counties, much like what has been established on the Big Island.

“We have some of the resources that the legislature has given us that will allow us to take this [the plan] to the next level. That’s what we will be working on for the next few months with the new communication plan and that everyone understands the serious nature of continued mosquito-borne diseases to the state,” said Dr. Pressler.

Governor Ige said that he believes the outbreak on the Big Island has assisted the entire state in being better positioned to respond to vector-borne illnesses in the future. He noted the work of the County of Hawai’i and its leadership in spearheading response.

Mayor Kenoi was anticipated to join in on th,e conference but Oliveira noted that there was a schedule conflict.

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