Saturday, October 13, 2001

Dengue fever on Oahu

The mosquito-borne ailment is
confirmed in a Kaneohe resident
as the statewide toll hits 48

By Lisa Asato

A Kaneohe resident with no history of recent travel is the first person on Oahu to be confirmed to have dengue fever, the state Department of Health said yesterday.

The Oahu case was among eight new cases confirmed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, bringing the total confirmed cases to 48, with six new cases on Maui -- five in the Hana area and one in Kihei -- and one new case in Anahola on Kauai.

State Health Director Bruce Anderson said he is concerned that dengue fever has shown up on Oahu, the state's most populous island. But, he added, unlike Maui, where the virus is "clearly established in the mosquito population," the Oahu case may be isolated.

"The fact that we have only one case here suggests that it's not a widespread problem, particularly given the extensive surveillance we've had in place," he said.

The surveillance means screening people who show signs of fever and one or two other symptoms associated with the disease, such as severe headaches, body and joint pains, vomiting, eye pain and rash.

While the number of confirmed cases continued to rise, Anderson said the latest batch of samples tested by the CDC was reassuring. Out of 178 samples tested, eight were positive for dengue fever and 47 were ruled out completely, he said. That shows "we have a very sensitive system and indeed a few cases are dengue," he said. "That's really the good news."

Dr. Paul Effler, the state epidemiologist, said the new cases on Maui and Kauai have links to existing hot spots in the state or to a person who has traveled to Tahiti, which has experienced dengue epidemics.

But Anderson said it is unknown where on Oahu the Kaneohe individual got the virus.

"We're going to know more about that case in the near future, but clearly having a case here with no travel history suggests that individual was infected by a mosquito carrying the virus here on Oahu," he said.

Meanwhile, the number of reported illnesses being investigated rose to 222 from 165. Twenty cases throughout the islands tested positive on preliminary screenings.

Dengue fever is transmitted via the bite of an infected mosquito and can not move directly from person to person.

Dengue experts say the only way to effectively control the spread of the disease is by targeting the mosquito population.

The mosquito-control effort has been "very effective, very aggressive," Anderson said, adding that the Health Department and counties have sprayed insecticides and larvicides at more than 600 locations statewide.

Efforts continue to focus on Maui, he said, where 45 of 48 confirmed cases occurred.

"We have to be sure that we continue to aggressively control mosquitoes," Anderson said. "This isn't a problem that's likely to go away. In fact, every day there are mosquitoes around we have the risk of introduction of disease."

The Health Department has urged the public to clear their private properties of containers that may hold standing water.

The dengue lab planned for Pearl City will take several weeks at least to set up, Anderson said.

Landfill fees waived

WAILUKU >> Maui County officials are temporarily waiving all residential tipping fees at county landfills and trash transfer stations to encourage residents to aid in dengue fever cleanup efforts.

The county will coordinate a cleanup in Haiku today as part of Community Work Day.

Haiku residents living in the areas bordered by East Kuiaha and West Kuiaha roads and Kaupakalua Road and Hana Highway are asked to leave their bulky goods, such as old tires and refrigerators, on their street curb by 7 a.m. Others are asked to call Community Work Day on Maui, 877-2524.

4 Maui meetings set

WAILUKU >> State health officials plan to conduct informational meetings about dengue fever in four communities on Maui next week.

Monday's meeting takes place at the Eddie Tam Gym in Makawao; Tuesday at the Kula Community Center; Wednesday at the Hannibal Tavares Center in Pukalani; Thursday at the Kihei Community Center.

All meetings start at 6:30 p.m. For further information, the public may call 984-8200.

E-mail to City Desk

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