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Ask the Mayor: What are the County and State Doing About Dengue?

Dengue vector control. Photo credit: Hawaiʻi District Health Office.

Dengue vector control. Photo credit: Hawaiʻi District Health Office.

Mayor Alan Arakawa answers some of the most-asked questions submitted to his office staff.

Dear Mayor Arakawa,

Q: I am writing to you as I am alarmed at the apparent lack of alarm and action within the state about the dengue outbreak. The news reports have offered that currently the exposure rate for dengue on Hawai‘i Island had climbed from one in 185,079 people Oct. 21 to one in 849 residents, as well as three out of every 50,000 visitors. This data is the same as an average infection rate of 67 residents and seven visitors every month since this outbreak began.

I was further worried to learn how the cutbacks of key personnel, entomologists and vector control staff have been reduced and are nowhere near adequate to address the needs to monitor and deal with the problem.

I read in a Star Advertiser editorial: “Last year, workers laid 85 traps on O‘ahu, 20 on the island of Hawai‘i and 47 on Kaua‘i.There are no traps or vector control workers on Maui, Lāna‘i and Moloka‘i.

Not even any traps? Maui, Lāna‘i and Moloka‘i are neighbors to Hawai‘i Island!

I hope that Maui County can take immediate action now and not wait on the state.

Thank you for your consideration and advisement on this matter that is of great concern to many of us.

A: This is an issue which is also of great concern to those of us at the county and at the state level as well.

Back in December, we initiated a proactive, informational radio campaign on most of Maui’s radio stations. The county is working closely to monitor the situation on Maui, Lāna‘i and Moloka‘i with the help of the Maui District Health Office, which has two vector control workers on Maui. Two additional vector control positions were given to Maui and personnel is being recruited to fill these positions. These state workers support any efforts on Lāna‘i and Moloka‘i.

The state Department of Health does have traps and sprayers on Maui, contrary to what has been reported. In fact, Maui was the only county to keep its sprayers on-island instead of sending them to Hawai‘i Island.

One of the state vector control workers has been sent to Hawai‘i Island for limited periods of time to assist with the spraying of pesticides to control adult mosquitoes.

The Maui District Health Office is currently investigating an imported case of dengue. This case is not related to the Hawai‘i Island dengue outbreak.

The DOH response team includes an epidemiological specialist, public health nurses and vector control workers. In addition, medical reserve corps members from the Maui County Health Volunteers and graduates of Maui County’s Community Emergency Response Team (CERT) have also assisted in providing outreach to the community, conducting mosquito surveillance and identifying other potentially ill patients.

You can help us spread the word, too, by looking for the “Fight the Bite” posters on Maui Buses and learning more about dengue and other mosquito-borne diseases online at www.health.hawaii.gov [1].

Want to Ask the Mayor?

Submit your questions about County of Maui programs, services, operations or policies to Mayor Alan Arakawa via email [2], by phone at 270-7855 or by mail to 200 S. High St., 9th Floor, Wailuku, HI 96793. Questions submitted will be considered for inclusion in the Ask the Mayor column.

Mayor Alan Arakawa answers some of the most-asked questions submitted to his office staff.