The head of a CDC team in the islands to help the state tackle a dengue fever outbreak says it's imperative that officials determine whether current control measures are actually effective.
Dr. Lyle Peterson, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's Division of Vector Borne Illness, was in Hilo on Thursday as part of a whirlwind tour of the island to evaluate the state's dengue fever mitigation efforts.
He applauded the state's surveillance system, which quickly identified Hookena Beach as a high-risk area.
"Based on this finding, the county officials immediately closed the park which undoubtedly prevented many further infections and spread of the virus," Peterson said.
Within the last week even more has been done to keep people out. Hawaii Island Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Olivera said additional signage has been posted, and a message board on the roadway now warns people about the closure.
Peterson also complimented the state lab's quick turnaround on dengue fever test results.
But he said there are some things that need work.
"Dengue outbreaks are extremely hard to control and it it imperative that additional efforts be put into evaluating the effectiveness of current control measures," he said.
Peterson, who's heading up a three-member CDC team in Hawaii, arrived Wednesday to assess how the state and Hawaii County are handling the ongoing dengue fever outbreak.
He said overall, government's response to the outbreak has been "timely, well-considered and appropriate."
The most recent numbers show 130 confirmed cases of dengue fever on Hawaii Island. That makes it the largest dengue fever outbreak since Hawaii became a state.
Dengue is transmitted by mosquitoes, not person-to-person, so outbreak control efforts have centered on preventing bites and controlling mosquito populations.
While Peterson was in Hilo on Thursday, the two other members of his team were dispatched to Kona. Peterson said they're trying to learn more about the mosquitoes that are causing the outbreak.
They're also helping train Hawaii crews on vector control efforts.
Meanwhile, experts say there is no telling how long this outbreak could last. That's why it's crucial to take precautions, like wearing bug spray and eliminating standing water on properties.
In the past week alone, the county's risk reduction team has gone on 40 calls in an effort to destroy mosquito breeding grounds.
Peterson said this outbreak is very similar to the outbreak on Maui back in 2001, previously the largest outbreak recorded. The big difference: The current one happened is affecting more populated areas, leaving more people at risk.