State concerned of dengue risks following heavy rains

December 30, 2010, 10:34 AM HST · Updated December 30, 10:34 AM
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The state Department of Health is urging residents and property owners to clear standing water from areas where mosquitoes may breed. That’s because DOH officials are concerned about mosquito-transmitted illness and the increase of cases.  Health officials say dengue fever has increased to epidemic levels this year in parts of the U.S., and the tropics and subtropics, where it had previously been absent or mild.

Aedes aegypti mosquitoes; an invasive, domestic species with tropical and subtropical worldwide distribution that originated in Africa. Photo & info. courtesy CDC.

Another important mosquito vector of dengue is Aedes albopictus, which is also an invasive species originally from Asia. Image and info courtesy CDC.

Hawaii health officials this year, investigated five cases of dengue fever contracted outside of the state by travelers who became ill during their stay in Hawaii. In 2009, six imported cases were reported, and in 2008, there were 14 imported cases.

“Fortunately at this time, dengue fever, West Nile virus, malaria and other mosquito-transmitted illnesses are not endemic in Hawaii,” said acting health director Keith Ridley.  “Reducing the mosquito population,” he said, “can prevent the spread of serious illnesses from infected persons to others by way of biting mosquitoes… We all must do all we can to protect our islands against these possible threats to public health,” said Ridley.

Health care providers should report all dengue-like illness in patients to the state Department of Health, especially those who have recently travelled to or from Key West Florida, Puerto Rico or international dengue-affected areas.

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Due to severe budget cuts the DOH Vector Control Branch in not funded to treat mosquito infestations, but can provide information and recommendations over the phone.

Anything that collects water outside should be thrown away or urned upside down.  Rain gutters should be kept clear and items that can’t be dumped should be treated with soapy water.

“Dengue fever could flare up anywhere in the state where there are mosquitoes,” Ridley said. “All it takes is one infected traveler and active mosquitoes. The best way to prevent this disease from establishing itself in our islands is to reduce and control our mosquito population,” said Ridley.

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