Big Island lawmaker wants state to offer free dengue fever tests

Big Island lawmaker wants free Dengue testing

A Big Island lawmaker says the state should offer to test residents for dengue fever for free to ensure an accurate picture of the outbreak.

Since mid-September, there have been 38 confirmed cases of dengue fever on Hawaii Island. Health officials say many of the exposures have been traced back to south Kona.

But state Sen. Josh Green, whose district includes Kau and Kona, said some residents might not be seeking medical care because they can't afford it.

Green, who is also a Big Island emergency room doctor, said it's vital to get an accurate count, which is why he's asked the state Department of Health to provide free care to people who believe they might have dengue fever.

"There could easily be two or three times as many cases that we may never know about," Green said.

He added, "It would be very beneficial if people had a single hotline they could call and talk to someone with the Department of Health and then have a health worker to go out and get the blood sample and run the test."

Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist, said the state lab is processing all dengue fever samples

"This is free because we are in the midst of an investigation," she said, adding that if residents are concerned about the cost of a doctor's visit, they can visit a neighborhood health center.

"Getting in to see your health care provider is so important," Park said. "Because what if it's not dengue what if it's something else and the likelihood frankly that what you have is something else is much higher than it is dengue."

The state is currently analyzing between 40 and 50 tests a day.

Although the last confirmed exposure happened on November 2, Park said it will be several weeks before she can say the danger is over.

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