Gov. Ige signs emergency proclamation to fight mosquito-borne illnesses

Gov. Ige signs emergency proclamation to fight mosquito-borne illnesses
Image: Hawaii News Now
Image: Hawaii News Now

HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - Gov. David Ige has signed an emergency proclamation to fight mosquito-borne illnesses in Hawaii.

The announcement comes as the state grapples with a growing dengue fever outbreak on Hawaii Island, and as lawmakers and state officials raise alarms about the resources required to prepare for the Zika virus.

As of Friday, there have been 255 cases of dengue fever on Hawaii Island since September.

There have been no cases of Zika virus in Hawaii this year.

The proclamation will release much-needed state funds for personnel and resources, and will suspend procurement laws to ensure speedier responses to problems.

Virginia Pressler, state Department of Health director, said the proclamation will allow her to quickly hire entomologists on Hawaii Island, and add to the department's communications staff.

She said the goal is to "vector-born disease division so we can keep Hawaii safe." (The state's vector control branch was decimated by budget cuts, but has slowly been built back up. It now has 25 staff members, about half the total before 2009.)

Officials also made clear Friday that the proclamation didn't mean residents or tourists should be alarmed.

They said the proclamation was preventive, and acknowledges the work being done nationally to prepare for the ZIka virus.

"Safety is always a top priority," said George Szigeti, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority. "To Hawaii's travelers: There's no reason to be alarmed or to alter your travel plans."

He added that Hawaii Island has seen "a few" cancellations because of the dengue fever outbreak, but that the other islands have not been affected.

Ige added, "We don't want to end up waiting until we significantly impact the industry. We want the world to know that we are taking action to reduce the possibility of vector-borne diseases here in Hawaii."

Copyright 2016 Hawaii News Now. All rights reserved.