HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - The state Department of Health Vector Control Branch will receive a boost in funding after an agreement made between House and Senate conferees while discussing the state budget on Thursday.
$1,270,120 will be provided to the state Department of Health Vector control Branch to focus on controlling populations of animals and insects that spread disease.
The funding stems from growing concern over Hawaii Island's recent outbreak of dengue fever and the Zika virus outbreak in Brazil, which are spread by mosquitoes. The House and Senate conferees want to ensure that the state is prepared to handle any future outbreaks.
"This funding will help re-establish the vector control branch, which has been reduced over the past few years by furloughs and budget cuts," said Sylvia Luke, chairperson of the House Finance Committee. "In making these appropriations, the department will be able to add 20 new positions to monitor populations of vectors such as mosquitoes and rats, and to respond appropriately when a threat arises."
The funding will add 20 vector control positions to the existing 25. Before the dengue fever outbreak in October 2015, only 17 positions were filled.
"Infectious disease has been and will continue to be one of our key challenges in a world made smaller and more connected with modern day air travel," said Jill Tokuda, chairperson of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. "The state's recent slow response to the dengue fever outbreak on the Big Island was a wake-up call for all us. We must be more vigilant in anticipating and responding to such outbreaks spread by mosquitoes and other vectors."