Health officials: 23 confirmed cases of dengue fever on Big Isla - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Health officials: 23 confirmed cases of dengue fever on Big Island

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HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) -

There are now 23 confirmed cases of locally-contracted dengue fever on Hawaii Island, according to the state Department of Health. Of the confirmed cases, 15 are Hawaii Island residents and eight are visitors. The 23 local cases are since Sept. 15, and are in addition to at least 13 previous cases of dengue fever statewide that were not locally-acquired.

There have been no cases of locally-contracted dengue fever on other islands. Health officials are investigating a suspected case of dengue fever in East Oahu that is not related to the Hawaii County outbreak. The patient in Kalama Valley fell ill after returning from a trip overseas.

Kalama Valley resident Greg Knudsen got rid of potential mosquito breeding grounds around his home after hearing about the suspected case of dengue fever in his neighborhood.

"There is a particular strain or combination of dengue where if I would get it again, they say it could be fatal," Knudsen said.

Knudsen said he contracted dengue fever in 1974 while serving as a Peace Corps volunteer in Chuuk.

"A real pressure behind the eyes and a real pressure in the head and just aching all over," recalled Knudsen.

On the Big Island, county parks department staff and state vector control workers are racing to stop the spread of the mosquito-borne illness. The state's vector control branch suffered drastic cuts in 2009, going from 58 to 17 positions statewide. On the Big Island, 14 positions were reduced to 4.

"It's always a concern. It's easy to cut staff when you have budget cuts, but the impact then on public health is immense so we're gradually rebuilding those resources that we need in order to protect the community's health," said Dr. Virginia Pressler, DOH director.

During the last legislative session, lawmakers provided funding for four new vector control workers. Two positions are for the Big Island and two are for Maui County. The DOH is working to create and fill the additional positions.

"I think this is going to impact so I strongly urge the state that they should put those monies in the vector control and have these mosquitoes taken care of," said Dr. Vivek Nerurkar, chair of the Department of Tropical Medicine, Medical Microbiology and Pharmacology at the John A. Burns School of Medicine.

UH researchers have spent countless hours studying the disease.

"Also within the last five years or so, we have been working on dengue in terms of diagnostics as well as vaccines," said Nerurkar.

The symptoms of dengue fever include a sudden onset of fever, severe headaches, eye, joint, and muscle pain, and rash. The rash typically appears on the hands, arms, legs and feet three to four days after the fever begins.

The symptoms usually go away within one to two weeks.

There’s no cure for dengue fever. Typically, doctors suggest bed rest and acetaminophen.

How can you keep from getting dengue fever? Here are tips from the Health Department:

  • When traveling to areas that have dengue fever, try to avoid exposure to mosquitoes. 
  • Use mosquito netting over beds, and screens on windows and doorways.
  • Use mosquito repellents and wear appropriate clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants that reduce exposure to mosquito bites.
  • Mosquitoes are drawn to dark colors; so if possible, wear white or light colored clothing when you are likely to be exposed to biting mosquitoes.

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