Waipio Valley closed to public due to ongoing dengue fever outbr - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Waipio Valley closed to public due to ongoing dengue fever outbreak

Image Source: Wikimedia Commons Image Source: Wikimedia Commons
Lana Horoho & her husband Lana Horoho & her husband
WAIPIO VALLEY, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Hawaii County Civil Defense has closed Waipio Valley to the public due to the dengue fever outbreak on the Big Island.

Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Oliveira said the Waipio Valley Access Road and valley area were closed to all non-resident traffic as of 2:30 p.m. Wednesday.

The measure was a precaution, and came a day after a state Department of Health vector control crew visited the valley and found evidence that at least one resident may have been infected with the disease.

“The evidence we got today, again with possibly residents being involved, raised the level of interest and concern and to be more precautionary, and to lessen the potential and risk for other people becoming infected,” Oliveira said.

As of 1 p.m. Wednesday, there were two additional confirmed cases of dengue on Hawaii Island. That brought the total number of cases to 215 since the outbreak began.

Oliveira said in the past few weeks, there were six cases of dengue tied to the Waipio Valley area.

“Some only went to the lookout, some actually went down into the valley," he said. However, "there was no evidence to support that they actually picked up the virus in the valley.”

That changed with the latest DOH finding of a resident falling ill.

An estimated 150 people visit the valley every day, many of them members of tour groups who are eager to see its lush, green beauty. They'll only be able to view it from a distance at the lookout, which remains open.

"Actually the resort we're staying at, they advised us to come here and check it out," said Lana Horoho of Indiana, who was visiting the lookout with her husband. "And we see the signs and we don't want to go down there."

Tour group operators said they had already been taking steps against spreading dengue.

“We always had mosquito spray, different DEET-free spray, regular Off, and we always provide that to our guests and to other people who are going into the valley,” said Gary Matsuo of Waipio Valley Shuttle, which normally takes about 20 people a day into the valley.

Area businesses are concerned about the closure's impact.

"We depend on a lot of traffic going to and from the valley. And yeah, I think it's going to affect everybody's businesses," said Larry Vidlak of the Waipio Cookhouse, located on the highway about a mile from the valley entrance.

“We are going to lose money and income,” Matsuo added, but “the bigger picture is it’s most important to stop the spread of dengue in Hawaii.”

Oliveira said DOH and civil defense crews will go into Waipio Valley again on Thursday to take a survey of the area and determine the types of mosquitoes and their numbers.

The current dengue fever outbreak is the largest in state history. Of those who have fallen ill, 195 are Hawaii residents.

The virus is passed on by mosquitoes that bite infected people. It cannot be transmitted from person to person. Symptoms include a high fever, intense headache and joint pain, and rash on the arms. 

State officials previously closed Milolii and Honomalino Bay, saying they were hotspots for the virus.

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