Friday, December 21, 2001

2 new dengue fever
cases suspected
on Maui

The discovery delays hopes of
declaring the state dengue-free

By Gary T. Kubota

WAILUKU >> Two more suspected cases of dengue fever in Hana have left the state with little hope of declaring a dengue-free Hawaii this month or next.

"It's down but not out," said Dr. Lorrin Pang, the Maui District health officer.

While displaying some of the clinical symptoms, the two cases are unconfirmed and will require at least a couple of weeks for laboratory verification, he said.

Of the 95 confirmed cases statewide, 70 have occurred on Maui and 60 of them in Hana, according state statistics released this week.

The last two confirmed cases on Maui involved two people in Hana who reported becoming sick around Nov. 29-30, according to test results received Tuesday.

Pang said to declare an area dengue-free, the state needs to have at least six weeks in which there are no confirmed cases of dengue fever. Officials say a mosquito usually lives for about six weeks, and a six-week period of no reported illnesses is needed to ensure a mosquito cannot pass on the dengue virus.

Symptoms of dengue fever include rapid high fever, extreme aches, and a rash on the soles of the feet and palms of the hands.

Health officials said those contracting the virus should contact their physician and refrain from taking aspirin or ibuprofen.

Pang said that in the past two to three weeks, Hana has had about three reported cases weekly, and he expects about one of the three to be confirmed. Reported cases in other areas of Hawaii have been sporadic.

The number of confirmed cases in the state, most of them in Hana, have largely declined from mid-September through early November, to two weekly from a peak of 14.

State health workers have not been waiting until cases are confirmed before taking action.

They have been spraying around homes with suspected cases and emptying receptacles that might serve as breeding areas.

Meanwhile, recent rains have been a blessing and curse for those fighting the fever.

Pang said the extended rains washed out areas where there may be mosquito larvae. However, the rain also provided new breeding sites and washed away the insecticide sprayed by state workers to kill the mosquitos.

Pang said the insecticide may remain effective for two to three weeks if there is no rain.

The spraying apparently has been effective. The number of reported cases on Maui has dropped to two to three reported a week from two to three reported daily, Pang said.

The state is continuing to get a number of imported cases of dengue fever from areas where there have been major outbreaks, including Tahiti, the Philippines and Thailand. Pang said preventive steps such as insecticide spraying and eliminating breeding areas have kept the imported cases from spreading.

"They've been knocking at our door, but so far, we've been shutting it down," he said.

The virus is contracted through a mosquito biting a human being with the virus and infecting someone else, and cannot be passed from one human being to another.

Pang said the chances of a person becoming seriously ill increases considerably with repeat infection of the dengue virus.

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