DOH investigates suspected mosquito-borne disease case on Oahu

Suspected mosquito-borne disease case in Punchbowl area

MAKIKI (HawaiiNewsNow) - Honolulu resident Sheryl Nelson is blind. She said she didn't know state Health Department employees were going door-to-door in her neighborhood on Friday passing out yellow "fight-the-bite" pamphlets.

The Health Department is investigating an illness in the Punchbowl area that might have been transmitted by mosquitoes. Test results aren't expected back until next week. Until then, investigators can't say much, except to watch out for mosquitoes.

"For a person who is blind ... like for me, that would just be something on the gate that I would just toss off. I wouldn't really think about it. I wouldn't know what it was," Nelson said.

Vector control workers who canvassed Magazine Street on Friday are tight-lipped about any details related to this suspected case, but staff surveyed a 200-yard radius for any potential mosquito breeding grounds.

One resident said a vector control worker said there were "infected mosquitoes" in the area. However, that has not been confirmed. The Health Department said it's investigating a possible case and went door to door in hopes to stop a potential spread before it starts.

"Just as a precaution, as a protocol, we do send a vector control team out there to make sure that if it became a real confirmed case, that we've taken proper precautions to not spread the disease," said Keith Kawaoka, Deputy Director for Environmental Health.

Kawaoka said he can't tell neighbors if the illness is Zika, dengue, chikungunya or something else.

"For example, a rash or fever … those symptoms are pretty much in all of those diseases. It's the severity of each one that a health care provider may suspect a certain disease. But until you get laboratory confirmation, we really won't know what the specific virus is at this point, if at all," Kawaoka said.

Nelson said she would like to see other forms of communication to ensure all residents are notified.

"I understand there's budgets and constraints and all that stuff. But for me, the pamphlet is just not a practical solution," said Nelson.

The health department said lab results should be back in three to five days.

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