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Wednesday, October 17, 2001



Legislators want
corps for dengue battle

The proposed group also would
assist in eradicating threats
to the environment


By Richard Borreca
rborreca@starbulletin.com

One of the first victims of the dengue fever outbreak was state Sen. J. Kalani English, who was working on his late grandmother's Hana property in early August when he felt sick.

The first symptoms were just like a case of the flu, he said. But by the next morning, the 35-year-old English said he was sicker than he had ever been.

"It was like the flu, but 50 times worse," said English (D, Wailuku, Upcountry and Kahului). "I was just out of it for three days. I was all alone and when someone came to check, it was three days later and I had a 105-degree fever."


STAR-BULLETIN FILE PHOTO
State Sen. J. Kalani English was among the first people on
Maui to contract dengue fever two months ago.



The experience encouraged him to look for ways to contain the mosquitos that spread the disease.

English has been working with state Rep. Brian Schatz (D, Makiki, Tantalus) to come up with a way to battle dengue fever and other environmental problems.

The pair is proposing that the upcoming special legislative session appropriate money to hire emergency workers on three- or four-month contracts to work on eradicating mosquito-breeding grounds, the invasive miconia plants, the noisy Puerto Rican coqui frogs and fire ants.

English said the idea is based on President Franklin D. Roosevelt's Civilian Conservation Corps, in which unemployed workers during the Great Depression were hired by the federal government to clean land, build trails and build public facilities.

"With a $1.5 million appropriation, we could hire 450 to 485 people," English said. "Right now, the state can't hire these people and put them on the civil service payroll."

He explained the state could put them to work on short-term contracts. They could work under the guidance of the counties to clean areas of mosquito-breeding grounds, which would also help get rid of the bothersome frogs. Other workers could work on eradicating miconia, an invasive plant that is taking portions of neighbor island forest areas.

English hopes to draft legislation for the planned special legislative session that would appropriate the needed money and allow the University of Hawaii's Research Corporation to handle disbursing the money.

"So far we have gotten a lot of support in the House and Senate for it," he said.

English contracted dengue fever two months ago. It isn't contagious and is only transmitted by mosquitos.

Within a week he had a body rash, and although a doctor had told him his case was similar to a flu strain going around, he asked the Department of Health to check.

"They gave me a blood test and it confirmed I was one of the first who had the dengue fever," English said.

If there was a positive side to contracting the disease, English said, it is that he now is immune to the type of dengue fever most common, so he is able to go back to Hana and help with the community cleanup.



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