Health officials: State lab critical to dengue fight

Health officials: State lab critical to dengue fight

PEARL CITY, OAHU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Every weekday, workers inside the state laboratories are testing specimens from Hawaii Island for dengue fever.

"Our maximum day was 84 specimens in one day that we tested and reported," said Dr. Chris Whelen, state Laboratories administrator.

The Health Department opened the facility up to reporters on Friday to help the public better understand what goes in to confirming a dengue case.

As of Friday, there were 146 confirmed cases of dengue fever on Hawaii Island. Another 556 specimens have tested negative for dengue fever.

The outbreak is the largest in the state's history, but so far hasn't affected other islands.

Confirming a dengue fever case begins at the doctor's office. If someone is showing dengue fever symptoms, blood is drawn and sent to the state lab.

From there, one of two possible tests are taken.

The first is administered if the patient has shown symptoms for less than seven days at the time of the blood draw. This test searches for the virus itself in the patient's blood stream.

If a patient has exhibited symptoms for over seven days at the time of the blood draw, a different test is administered.

In the second test, said DOH virology section supervisor Roland Lee, "what we're looking for is a patients' response to the virus. When a patient gets sick, he or she produces antibodies to that virus."

Speedy testing for dengue fever is an integral part of combating the Hawaii Island outbreak, officials said, which is why it was integral for the state lab to step in in November to test the dengue fever samples.

Before the state lap started testing, samples were being sent to the mainland and the turnaround time was longer.

Bringing the testing to the state, said Whelen, means "we can provide data to our disease investigators so that their investigations are more efficient."

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