Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) today called on Governor David Ige to declare the Hawaiʻi Island dengue fever outbreak a state of emergency and deploy State resources, including the National Guard, to assist with mosquito abatement, public information, clearing, and providing completely free testing for those with suspected symptoms of this incurable disease.
“The dengue fever outbreak on the Big Island continues to worsen. We cannot afford to wait any longer for the aggressive action necessary to combat the spread of this serious disease. An emergency proclamation from the Governor is long overdue,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard, who represents the people of Hawaiʻi Island. “There have already been 242 confirmed cases of Dengue Fever on Hawaiʻi Island, creating a public health emergency affecting our residents and visitors, and Hawaii Island’s economy. They deserve our state’s full attention and resources to do what it takes to put an end to this outbreak, and prevent it from becoming endemic and spreading to other parts of the island and state.”
On October 21, 2015 the Dengue exposure rate on Hawaiʻi Island was 1 in 185,079. As of today, 1 out of every 849 residents and approximately 3 out of every 50,000 visitors has contracted dengue fever. This constitutes an average infection rate of 67 residents and 7 visitors every month since this outbreak began. Additionally, the same mosquito that carries Dengue Fever is also a carrier of the Zika virus, which is “spreading explosively” according to UN health officials, who are currently considering declaring an international health emergency.
In speaking with Governor Ige and by written correspondence, the congresswoman called for the following action items to be addressed immediately:
1. Completely free and accessible testing for those who suspect they have symptoms of Dengue Fever. While the cost of the test may be free, residents and visitors are still charged for visits to a physician, nurse, or clinic in order for their blood to be drawn. This could easily be solved by ensuring there are free access points island-wide, and by deploying state or National Guard medical personnel as a mobile testing unit that can travel to both populated and remote locations across the island, draw blood, and get samples to the lab for expedited results.
2. Allocate resources to the Department of Health for development and execution of a comprehensive public information and public engagement campaign with quality review measures. Current “Fight the Bite” efforts fall far short of providing residents and visitors with the information they need.
3. Provide a full-time entomologist on Hawaiʻi Island dedicated to eradication, reduction, and prevention of further spread of the Dengue virus.
4. Allocate resources to hire vector control personnel, purchase more sprayers and other necessary equipment and supplies.
5. Provide free supply and distribution of Ovitraps throughout the community to empower local residents to help prevent the spread of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. World Health Organization report studies have shown that population densities can be reduced below disease-transmission thresholds with sufficiently large numbers of frequently serviced traps.
6. Appoint a Dengue Czar who can act as the coordinator of efforts with all parties within the state, county, federal, private sector, and community to ensure the objectives are being met.