Governor, Hawaii County officials defend dengue outbreak response

Governor, Hawaii County officials defend dengue outbreak response

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - In a news conference Tuesday, the governor and officials responded to critics who say the state isn't doing enough to address the dengue fever outbreak.

Gov. David Ige said the state is working closely with Hawaii County agencies to deal with a growing dengue fever outbreak, and has deployed enough resources to tackle the crisis.

He said while the state always needs more personnel, it has enough capacity to deal with the outbreak.

Officials also said an emergency proclamation to deal with the outbreak isn't needed at this time, but might be issued in the near future.

"The decision to issue an emergency proclamation is one made by professionals," Ige said. "There is a continuous conversation about it, as we proceed through an event and identify a course of action."

Ige added, with dengue on Hawaii Island, "we are actually making progress. The number of cases has been fewer and farther between."

The defense of the state's response to dengue comes amid mounting concerns over the outbreak, which has so far sickened 244 people, 33 of whom required hospitalization.

On Friday, U.S. Rep. Tulsi Gabbard publicly urged the governor to declare a state of emergency to deal with dengue. She said the state should increase testing, enhance public education, hire more personnel and appoint a "dengue czar" to address the outbreak.

Hawaii County Civil Defense Administrator Darryl Olivera said at the Monday's news conference that the county is "close" to asking the state to issue a state of emergency. But he stressed the request would be made "to make sure we have adequate resources."

Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi added that "finger-pointing and blame" aren't productive.

"Our job is to ensure that people understand that Hawaii Island continues to be a beautiful place to live, work and play," he said.

In December, a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention team visited Hawaii to monitor the state's response to the dengue outbreak, and determined the state's response was "timely, well-considered and appropriate."

But the team also warned the state's resources would likely need bolstered, and that officials should do a better job of tracking trends, identifying how to best control mosquito populations and determine whether outreach efforts are working.

The state's stretched resources have been put under further scrutiny in recent days, as fears over the Zika virus grows.

There have been no local cases of Zika virus in Hawaii, but public health officials are concerned the virus could make its way to the islands as part of a global health crisis that's affected millions in the Americas.

Do you have questions about dengue fever? We're answering your questions here.

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