Tuesday, October 9, 2001

Confirmed cases
of dengue fever
rise over weekend

34 people on Maui and 1 on
Kauai test positive for the virus

State, feds express hope

By Gordon Y.K. Pang

The number of confirmed dengue fever cases climbed over the weekend to 35 from 26 reported Friday, state health officials said yesterday.

But the Health Department continues to say it has no conclusive evidence that the outbreak has reached Oahu, despite an increase in suspected cases on all islands.

All but one of the 35 confirmed cases involve Maui residents.

The other confirmed case, on Kauai, involves a person who "had some contact with Maui, in fact the Hana area of Maui" recently, although Health Department officials are still trying to pinpoint when, said Paul Effler, the chief of the department's epidemiology section.

Health Director Bruce Anderson said his agency still views the outbreak as a statewide issue. In nine cases where people tested positive in a preliminary "rapid screening test," five were on Maui, two on Oahu and two on Kauai, although none are confirmed.

Anderson also noted that there are 127 suspected cases from all islands that are under investigation, up from the 115 reported as of Friday. Test samples are being analyzed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"We need to assume the worst, and that is that at least some of those cases will be confirmed. And certainly we are treating it that way," Anderson said. "We're going out to every case immediately to treat the area."

The viral disease is transmitted by mosquitoes who have bitten infected people and then bite others. It is believed the first mosquitoes carrying dengue bit infected travelers who returned from either the Pacific or Southeast Asia. Infection in humans cannot occur through contact with other people. Symptoms include high fever, severe headaches, body and joint pains, vomiting, eye pain and rash. The strain in Hawaii is not believed to cause serious illnesses or death, as some strains may.

Health officials are urging the public to empty and remove all objects that collect rainwater, from buckets to abandoned cars, potential breeding areas for the mosquitoes.

The city began picking up unwanted bulky items yesterday from people's homes. City officials said 110 tons were collected yesterday, including 75 tons from urban Honolulu and 15 tons from Wahiawa. Crews were not expected to reach the Windward, Leeward, Pearl City or North Shore regions until today.

Oahu residents are asked to call 523-2489 for bulky item pickup. More than 500 people have called since Friday.

Jose Rigau, the CDC epidemiology section chief, said he believes the disease can be contained by limiting the population of the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus.

State health officials said this is the first time since 1945 that there have been any reported cases of dengue that were contracted locally.

Typically, the state sees about three people each year who were exposed abroad. This year, the number of cases where people were exposed abroad has jumped to 28, originating from Tahiti, Samoa and a smattering from Thailand and the Philippines, which caused health officials to alert those in the medical field to be on the lookout for dengue cases.

CDC Dengue Fever page

State Dengue Fever page

State, federal health
officials express hope
over dengue fight

Those who contracted the virus
say it was worse than any flu

By Gary T. Kubota

HANA, Maui >> While state and federal health officials continue to inform the public about dengue fever -- what it is, how it is contracted and how to prevent it -- one Maui man who needs no introduction to the virus is Bruce Stoner.

"It lingers," the Nahiku resident said. "It's a really bad disease."

Stoner and other East Maui residents who have had dengue fever describe it as worse than any flu, with symptoms that left them weak for a long time after the initial illness.

Stoner said he contracted dengue about a month ago but still feels the effects of the disease.

Although he did not get the rash that sometimes is associated with dengue, Stoner recalled battling a fever of 102 degrees that lasted three to five days and had him eating several Tylenols an hour.

He said the disease left him more than tired.

"You feel flattened, like someone dropped a safe on you," Stoner said. "It's a mental thing. Even a thought is excruciating."

Nahiku resident Kimberly McNelis became sick with dengue fever in February when she was in Thailand, and said the sickness lasted a month.

Although she said some problems resulting from the virus lasted six months, she offered encouragement to those who came down with the disease from the recent outbreak.

"It's not the end of the world," she said.

State health officials reported yesterday that the number of confirmed cases of dengue fever increased over the weekend.

At a meeting last night attended by more than 100 people at Helene Hall, state and federal officials indicated they were optimistic about controlling the mosquito-borne virus in Hana.

Dr. Paul Reiter, a medical entomologist for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said the number of reported dengue fever cases appears to have either stabilized or begun to decrease in Hana.

"We may be over the peak," Reiter said. "We can get to the end of this thing, and I think it's not far away."

Meanwhile, state officials said pesticide spraying will continue in areas where virus cases are reported, including upper and lower Nahiku.

Dr. Lorrin Pang, the state health administrator on Maui, said there were two or three suspected cases reported yesterday in Nahiku.

Among those who attended last night's meeting was Hana resident Ronnie Hill, who said the pesticides seem to significantly reduce the number of mosquitoes.

"The spraying they do seems to help a lot," he said.

CDC Dengue Fever page

State Dengue Fever page

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