HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - For the first time since 2011, health officials are investigating cases of locally-acquired dengue fever in the islands.
Two cases have been confirmed; four other cases were described as probable.
The six people were residents and visitors who apparently got dengue fever while on the Big Island.
A YouTube star and his girlfriend are among those who apparently fell ill, and they've indicated in online video blogs that Hawaii should expect more cases.
Charles Trippy and his girlfriend, Allie Wesenberg, were part of a group of YouTube personalities who visited the Big Island earlier this month. Just days after returning home to Florida, Wesenberg was taken to the emergency room.
"I think my body started to ache. Not just my muscles, it was like my bones hurt. It was awful," Wesenberg said, in a video blog. In the clip, she's covered with a blanket and wearing a surgical mask.
Wesenberg spent nearly a week in the hospital, with her ordeal recorded on the couple's YouTube channel CTFxC, which has more than 1.5 million subscribers. Doctors ran several tests before determining that she may have been infected with dengue fever.
"We've been talking with the Hawaiian Health Department," Trippy says in a video blog post, "And they're kinda helping us right now because they're afraid that other people ..."
"Well, they're concerned," Wesenberg interjects.
Dr. Melissa Viray, state Department of Health deputy epidemiologist, said investigators are looking into "different cases on the Big Island and we're looking at their different exposures, and we're trying to see where their exposures might have been in common."
Viray isn't calling it an outbreak. She said health officials jumped on these cases quickly.
"We're always on the lookout for an incident like this because dengue doesn't happen here," she said. "We don't have local dengue in our mosquitoes."
Viray said vector teams haven't found any heavy mosquito activity on the Big Island, so an outbreak could be contained quickly.
However, Trippy and Wesenberg are concerned that more people in the group that traveled to the Big Island might have been infected.
"Hopefully everyone gets better but I think we're at eight or nine people out of the 12 or 13 people that were actually at the thing that have gotten sick and gone to the hospital," said Trippy, in the video blog.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is assisting the state Department of Health with testing.
Viray said residents and visitors should always take precautions when in areas with mosquitoes, including wearing repellent.
"What this is telling us is we're not going to get a warning in the future," she said.
The two new cases bring the total number of confirmed cases of dengue fever in Hawaii to 15 so far this year, all but two of which were people who contracted the illness outside of the islands.
There were 14 cases in 2014, and 10 in 2013.
The symptoms of dengue fever include a sudden onset of fever, severe headaches, eye, joint, and muscle pain, and rash. The rash typically appears on the hands, arms, legs and feet three to four days after the fever begins.
The symptoms usually go away within one to two weeks.
There's no cure for dengue fever. Typically, doctors suggest bed rest and acetaminophen.
How can you keep from getting dengue fever?
Here are tips from the Health Department:
- When traveling to areas that have dengue fever, try to avoid exposure to mosquitoes.
- Use mosquito netting over beds, and screens on windows and doorways.
- Use mosquito repellents and wear appropriate clothing such as long-sleeved shirts and long pants that reduce exposure to mosquito bites.
- Mosquitoes are drawn to dark colors; so if possible, wear white or light colored clothing when you are likely to be exposed to biting mosquitoes.