County, state officials continue ‘aggressive, collaborative response’ to dengue fever outbreak

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Gov. Ige and other county and state officials said in a news conference Tuesday that they are continuing an “aggressive, collaborative response” to the current dengue fever outbreak on Hawaii Island.

It was revealed at the news conference that a final draft of the governor’s state of emergency declaration for Hawaii County has been made in case more resources are needed.

On Friday, Jan. 29, Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard called for the governor to declare the island’s outbreak a state of emergency, saying the declaration would allow the state to deploy resources, including the National Guard, to assist with mosquito abatement, public information, clearing, and providing completely free testing for those with suspected symptoms.

The governor said a first draft was made back in November 2015 when the state Dept. of Health first announced the potential of a dengue fever outbreak on Hawaii Island.

“We’re having a continuous conversation over what course of action is required,” he said. “I reinterate that we are making progress. The cases have been fewer and far between. We don’t see an acceleration of cases and appropriate actions have been taken.”

As of Tuesday, there are 246 cases of dengue fever on Hawaii Island — 222 residents and 24 visitors — with one case potentially infectious to mosquitoes.

Hawaii Civil Defense Administrator/Incident Commander Darryl Oliveira said if such a declaration is made, it would open up more resources in battling the outbreak, such as additional sprayer equipment, access to other funding, and purchasing insect repellant that the county itself is purchasing from island retailers and wholesalers.

Oliveira also said that county paramedics and DOH nurses are doing field blood tests on those suspected of having dengue fever, and no one is being turned away from any of the island’s medical facilities due to an inability to pay for treatment.

When asked what are the challenges lying ahead for the county, Hawaii Island Mayor Billy Kenoi said because of “the questions of predictability and certainty, it’s difficult to make a strategic response,” but the situation is well in hand so long as they keep going into communities to convey “accurate, timely information;” contain the outbreak with spraying, and manage the expectations of residents and visitors.

U.S. Representative Gabbard sent a statement later in the day in reaction to the state and county officials’ statements:

“Hawaii Island residents, who are living with dengue fever within their communities, are begging for more resources and proactive action to be taken to stop the continued spread of dengue fever on Hawaii Island and across the state.  The economy on Hawaii Island is suffering as the number of dengue cases continues to increase with two new dengue cases on Hawaii Island and one case on Maui being confirmed today. The time for action is now to deal with dengue fever and prevent the outbreak of something far worse.”

We will have more on this story on our KHON2 News.

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