PEARL CITY (HawaiiNewsNow) - The Department of Health says: it's an outbreak. There are now FOUR confirmed cases of dengue fever on Oahu – with results of 12 more suspected cases still pending. But, health officials are hoping this epidemic can be contained to small numbers.
Hawaii health officials have an all-points bulletin out for the aedes albopictus. It's a type of mosquito that has bitten at least four adults – three from the same family, plus their neighbor - who all live in Pearl City.
"I'd sent a medical alert to all Oahu physicians, letting them know about what we were investigating and to basically heighten their awareness," says state epidemiologist, Dr. Sarah Park.
Health officials don't want to release the specific area in Pearl City because they don't want to give others a false sense of security that the outbreak can't happen elsewhere. In fact, the 12 suspected cases of dengue come from all over Oahu.
"We want them to be very aware that potentially we still don't know the scope of this outbreak," says Park. "It's not a matter of how far can mosquitos fly. It's actually a matter of how far infected folks may have gone."
Some are taking no chances. At Pearl City elementary school, custodian Tom Saloricman constantly checks for standing water - where mosquitos could potentially breed in plants and hydroponic projects.
Principal Susan Hirokane says, "They weed whacked just to double-check, and they've been coming frequently to check the corners of the campus where there might be a potential problem, but we don't have any here."
Teachers have also briefed students on what dengue fever is and where it comes from. "We make a point of teaching the kids the life-cycle of the insect, and this is how mosquitos work - they don't just appear out the air, they start out in the water," says teacher David Dellinger.
"Have you heard about the dengue fever in the news? Right. What are some of the things that you've heard, for example?" asks Mrs. Tabisola to her fifth graders. In this class, current events have become part of the lesson plan.
"What do mosquitos do in the water?" asks Mrs. Tabisola. "They lay their eggs." "Ew, yuck!" the students respond. The school is just hoping these lessons and preventative measures will keep the students and faculty safe and healthy.
By the way, dengue cannot be spread from person to person. Symptoms include fever; severe headache, eye, joint and muscle pain, and a rash on the hands, arms, legs and feet. It could take up to 15 days for the symptoms to manifest. To protect yourself, health experts recommend wearing a mosquito repellant containing the chemical Deet.