HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Health officials confirmed nine new cases of dengue fever on Hawaii Island on Thursday, bringing the total number of cases to 88.
Among those who have fallen ill are 21 children and 13 visitors.
The dengue fever outbreak started Sept. 11, and has so far remained on Hawaii Island. Dengue fever is transmitted by mosquitoes.
The new count was released just hours after the state Health Department wrapped up a briefing for lawmakers.
Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist, told legislators that her biggest concern is that all residents get the message that they should take preventive measures to stop from getting bit by mosquitoes. Those measures include wearing repellent and getting rid of standing water on properties.
"The spraying itself is not going to eradicate all mosquitoes," she said. "The key is ... prevention messages."
But State Sen. Josh Green, whose district include parts of the Big Island, told health officials the state could be doing more to control mosquito populations and reach out to vulnerable populations, including migrant communities where English is a barrier.
"I think that the Department of Health is working very hard. I respect that, but I think there is a lot more that they need to do," he said, adding that the National Guard should be deployed to spray for mosquitoes across Hawaii Island.
He also suggested deploying medical teams to rural communities and distributing free mosquito repellent.
State health officials have said the outbreak could last for months.
The Health Department has worked to educate people about the importance of getting rid of standing water on properties and wearing mosquito repellent. Vector control agents have also been spraying communities where dengue fever cases are being reported.
That work will be expanding this weekend, as the state Health Department sprays for mosquitoes at seven schools on Hawaii Island.
Schools to be sprayed this weekend are: Konawaena High, Konawaena Middle, Konawaena Elementary, Ehunui Kai Molino, Hookena Elementary, Honaunau Elementary, Hilo High, Hilo Intermediate, Waiakea Intermediate, and Waiakea Elementary.
For more information and resources about dengue fever, go the Health Department's dengue fever web page.
SEN. JOSH GREEN LETTER: