Sunday, October 14, 2001

Isle residents
snapping up bug

Anti-mosquito items are in
demand on Oahu and Maui amid
the dengue fever threat

Ex-Beatle Harrison gets
'Help!' in fight against dengue

By Leila Fujimori

SINCE THE DENGUE fever outbreak in Hawaii, anti-mosquito products have been flying off the shelves on Maui.

The trend had begun on Oahu even before Friday, when the first confirmed case of dengue fever on the island was announced by the Department of Health.

Residents have been buying various chemical and mechanical methods to combat mosquitos.

A Hana woman spent $6,000 on five mosquito traps at $1,200 each from the Kahului Gaspro store.

Most people, however, select less expensive products ranging from citronella candles to bug zappers.

"Everybody's coming in every 15 to 20 minutes looking for something to kill the mosquitos," said David Marrs, owner of Marmac Ace Hardware in Kahului.

Customers are scared, Marrs said. "They're not sure what to look for. They're trying to find just about anything," he said.

He was happy to receive a shipment Friday afternoon of 20 cases of insect repellent to replenish 4 feet of shelf space that was almost empty. But he said that's not going to be enough.

City Mill employee Melcolm Merritt holds a box of mosquito
repellent coils. Such anti-mosquito products have been flying
off shelves in the wake of the dengue fever outbreak.

"The second day (Sept. 22), the Department of Health took everything on the floor, and we did not have any for walk-in customers," Marrs said. "I heard they sprayed tourists going in and out of Hana."

Greg Brande, general manager at Lowe's Home Improvement Warehouse in Kahului, said he is awaiting two large shipments due in eight to 12 days. He has just a few products left. Some of the unusual products Brande carries are bug bracelets to repel mosquitos for 72 hours and Thermacell Mosquito Repellent, a cordless portable unit that heats up internally to repel mosquitos up to 15 feet.

People on Oahu have begun purchasing the products at a stepped-up pace.

City Mill on Nimitz Highway reported selling out on several products, including repellent.

Dengue fever in Hawaii is spread by the Asian tiger mosquito, Aedes albopictus, and Health Department officials say the disease cannot be transmitted from one genus of mosquito to another. It is not an aggressive mosquito and travels only 100 to 200 feet from its breeding ground.

The Asian tiger mosquito is a day-biter, according to Health Department officials, but does not transmit the disease efficiently since it also feeds on animals, not just humans. Animals, however, do not get the disease.

There have been 48 confirmed cases of dengue fever in the islands: one in Kaneohe; 45 on Maui; and two on Kauai.

THE HEALTH DEPARTMENT recommends removing any items in which water could collect and provide a breeding site for mosquitos, including plants. It has not recommended any of the available mosquito-fighting devices or products, however.

It does recommend repellents containing the active ingredient DEET.

A few mechanical mosquito traps beyond the familiar bug light zappers are also on the market.

Georgianna Dryer, who owns 19 acres in Hana, purchased five industrial models of the Mosquito Magnets from Gaspro in Kahului to clear mosquitos from a five-acre site where she has a main house, caretaker and guest cottages.

The device attracts mosquitos by mimicking human breath by emitting carbon dioxide, and sucks up the mosquitos with a vacuum. The machine runs on propane, and Dryer said she'll spend about $80 a month on propane.

Dryer said she had little success after the first two weeks, but was encouraged after the past few days when she removed the octenol, a mosquito attractant, from the units.

A Gaspro salesman told her the Asian tiger mosquito is not attracted to the octenol.

"While we have not had any cases on the ranch here, it's just a precaution," said Dryer, who runs a vacation rental business. She's had only one cancellation, from a Maryland woman who was pregnant and told by her doctor not to go to Hana.

Dryer said she had intended to clear the area of mosquitos before the epidemic, and had already intended to purchase the units. A smaller unit for1/2-acre sites are also sold by Gaspro for $795, but all Gaspro stores, distributors for the Mosquito Magnet, are sold out. They expect another shipment of 20 soon.

"The demand has dramatically increased since this dengue fever has come up," said Mark Morimoto, sales representative at the Kahului Gaspro.

Alvin Wilbanks, inventor of the Mosquito Trap and president of Environmental Products and Research, says his trap is the original. Wilbanks has two U.S. patents on the product. His trap emits carbon dioxide intermittently, mimicking breathing, and combines it with heat to simulate body temperature. Wilbanks has worked with NASA and an Arkansas entomologist to design the trap to also utilize a fabric with pores similar to human skin.

He claims that it has been known to kill up to 7,000 mosquitos per hour. His unit costs $800 and is available on the Internet.

Wilbanks said he is willing to work with Hawaii's Health Department to fight the mosquito problem using his invention.

The trap will never eliminate the problem but will reduce it significantly, he said.

During World War II, there were 1,000 cases of dengue fever in Hawaii, but the disease was successfully eradicated using DDT, said Janice Okubo, spokeswoman for the Health Department.

The Health Department has been spraying Permanone, whose active ingredient is the chemical pirmethrin.

Ex-Beatle Harrison gets
‘Help!’ in dengue fight

By Gary T. Kubota

HANA, Maui >> He's fought to stop neighbors from walking near his beach home and a pizza-eating, rootbeer-drinking burglar was arrested inside his house.

Now, former Beatle George Harrison has had his privacy invaded at his estate in East Maui by other intruders -- mosquitoes.

Harrison's groundskeeper in Nahiku, where there has been an outbreak of mosquito-borne dengue fever, has sprayed a bacterial agent in the garden that kills the mosquitoes at the larval stage, said Paul Reiter, a medical entomologist with the Centers for Disease Control.

Reiter said the bacterial agent is expensive but works.

"That's very effective upon the larvae," he said. "What he's been doing is treating bromeliads."

State health workers have been spraying a synthetic pyrethroid to kill the mosquitos -- a chemical similar to a marigold derivative that is harmless to human beings but toxic to fish, officials say.

Reiter said the decrease in the number of cases weekly seems to indicate the outbreak of dengue fever may have peaked in Hana.

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