Health officials urge vigilance to prevent another dengue outbreak

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There are renewed concerns over dengue fever in Hawaii after the disease was declared a national epidemic in the Philippines.

Health officials are asking everyone to be vigilant and take the necessary precautions.

Whether or not you visit the Philippines, officials here say it takes cooperation from everyone to prevent another outbreak.

There are nearly 150,000 cases of dengue fever in the Philippines this year, which have led to more than 600 deaths. Other Asian countries are seeing drastic increases. The state Department of Health says so far, there’s been no threat here.

“The only way that we’re gonna have an outbreak is if someone comes back and they get bitten by one of our mosquitoes, they didn’t take steps to protect themselves against mosquito bites,” said Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist.

Hawaii’s outbreak started in November 2015 and ended March 2016 with 264 cases. There were no deaths. Since then the health department’s Vector Control Branch has placed mosquito traps at all major airports. There are several types designed to catch them alive, dead or in larvae stage.

“The idea is that we can intercept any new or invasive species from coming and establishing themselves here in the state,” said Grace Simmons, Vector Control Branch chief.

There are two species of the mosquito that can transmit dengue fever, Aedes albopictus and Aedes aegypti.

“If you have a lot of Aedis aegypti, they’re the ones who tend to keep the disease around longer,” said Dr. Park.

Vector Control says this year on Oahu, crews have investigated 17 cases of possible mosquito borne diseases,which include zika and chikungunya. Three were confirmed. But they were all contracted overseas so they’ve been contained. If someone contracts the disease locally…

“It would be an all out effort to eradicate the mosquito, be it to spraying, through education, through outreach,” said Simmons.

For everyone else, the main thing is to make sure there’s no standing water in your property because they serve as breeding grounds for mosquitoes.

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