Health department confirms Hawaii’s first imported Zika case of 2016

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The Hawaii State Department of Health has confirmed the first imported case of Zika in Hawaii this year.

An imported case means the patient caught it somewhere else and then came back to the state.

The department tells us the patient was a woman who has since recovered and is no longer infectious. There is no health risk to the public.

Officials say she had a history of travel in the Pacific, but would not release any other details in order to protect the patient’s privacy.

“At any point was she infectious here?” KHON2 asked. “We don’t believe so,” said Keith Kawaoka, DOH deputy director.

“How were you guys able to identify that this person had Zika?” KHON2 asked.

“We basically do a lab test like we do the other vector-borne diseases,” Kawaoka explained. “Our state lab was able to confirm that the disease was present in the person.”

“Because people frequently travel to areas abroad where Zika virus is present, we can expect that we may see more imported cases in the coming months,” said Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler. “With Zika, and our current dengue outbreak, it’s important for everyone in the state to reduce mosquito breeding areas by getting rid of standing water, and use repellant or protective clothing to prevent mosquito bites.”

The department sent an advisory to healthcare providers statewide on Feb. 17, 2016 updating them on clinical guidance for Zika virus and urging them to be aware of areas abroad where Zika virus is circulating.

In 2015, the Department of Health reported four imported cases of Zika virus in the state.

The health department doesn’t normally announce imported cases, but did so because of the heightened awareness for Zika.

As we learn about this new case of Zika, Hawaii Island continues to fight the dengue outbreak.

The latest map from the health department shows that there are no longer high-risk areas for dengue infection. Kailua-Kona is at a moderate risk, and the yellow marks show areas with some risk levels.

Just last month, Gov. David Ige signed an emergency proclamation releasing money to fund more positions to help fight mosquito-borne illnesses.

An entomologist based on Hawaii Island started two weeks ago. Eight vector control workers will start in two weeks, split between Hilo and Kailua-Kona, and a communications specialist on Oahu will start next week.

Hawaii County Civil Defense is working on plans for an island-wide cleanup to move tires and other items that could be breeding zones for mosquitoes in April, and the National Guard may be called in to help, but those plans have not been finalized.

“We don’t want to move the problem from one area to another,” Kawaoka said. “We want to collect the refuse, properly dispose of it so we don’t have mosquitoes breeding in an environment.”

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