Big Island mayor declares state of emergency to address dengue fever outbreak

Big Island mayor declares state of emergency to address dengue fever outbreak

HILO, BIG ISLAND (HawaiiNewsNow) - Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi has declared a state of emergency to deal with the growing dengue fever outbreak.

In a declaration issued Monday, Kenoi said the state of emergency is needed to reduce mosquito populations, increased outreach and protecting people from mosquito bites.

"A state of emergency for Hawaii County is authorized in order to prevent the continued spread of this outbreak and to eliminate the dengue fever virus from Hawaii Island,' Kenoi said, in the declaration.

As of Monday, the state Health Department has confirmed 251 cases of dengue fever on Hawaii Island. Two of the cases are still potentially infectious.

The state of emergency comes a week after Kenoi, the governor and other officials responded publicly to critics who say agencies aren't doing enough to address the dengue fever outbreak.

At the time, officials said they were "very close" to issuing a state of emergency.

In a news release, the governor said he supports the county's decision to issue a state of emergency and is working to bolster additional resources to fight dengue. He also said he will issue a state of emergency if it's deemed necessary.

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

A state of emergency will add resources to the fight against dengue fever.

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.

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