Dengue fever is one of the fastest growing mosquito-borne viruses in the world.
Although it is not usually fatal, it is an extremely serious disease for all ages, including our kupuna.
“Our message to our kupuna, our senior community, is the same as it is for everyone else,” said Dr. Virginia Pressler, state Department of Health director. “I think we do acknowledge we want to particularly protect our kupuna, because sometimes their immune systems are not as good as you and me and for the rest of us.”
But is our senior community at a greater risk to develop a severe form of dengue fever like infants and younger children? It’s a question health advocates have been asking for years.
“There isn’t anything particular. It’s the same as any other disease that an elder person might get,” Pressler said. “If their immune is not as robust as it might have been when they were in their 40s or 50s, they’re more likely to have a poor outcome.”
Pressler says anytime someone is older, they are more susceptible to bad outcomes with any disease.
She says what’s important now, as Hawaii deals with its latest breakout of dengue, is to stay vigilant.
“We’ve got all kinds of social media for the youngsters in the family to help their kupuna and others about all the information they need to protect themselves from dengue,” Pressler said. “The message is the same as it is for everyone else protect yourself from getting bitten.”
Pressler says if you have a kupuna in your life, check around their home or their environment and make sure mosquito breeding grounds are not present.
“We want to protect our kupuna, so we need to make sure that all families make sure that they’re getting rid of standing water and making sure there aren’t mosquitoes on their property that could impact their kupuna,” she said.
Pressler reminds everyone that dengue is not endemic to Hawaii and “the most important thing is for everyone in the community to be educated and to understand how this dengue is contracted. It’s through mosquitoes, so if we protect ourselves from mosquito bites and get rid of mosquitoes on our property, then we can protect our kupuna.”