Hawaii Declares A Health Emergency Over Zika Virus And Dengue Fever

Hawaii Governor David Ige has declared a state of emergency over mosquito-borne illnesses, including the dangerous Zika virus and dengue fever.

While Hawaii has had an outbreak of the dengue fever with 250 reported cases on its biggest island, there have been no cases of the Zika virus which have been transmitted locally. However, mosquitos which carry the dengue fever are also known to carry the Zika virus, according to the Associated Press.

Hawaii mosquitos
Ige has been preparing Hawaii for a mosquito virus problem by calling a state of emergency. The emergency may help the state of Hawaii gain funding from the Emergency Disaster Fund to hire more people for its mosquito control and entomology staff. The staff was dramatically downsized in Hawaii from 56 people since 2009, with only 25 people now left to handle issues within the state’s vector control department.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) highlighted deficiencies within the department, and now the Department of Health wants to hire 10 new staffers when the governor of Hawaii passes over money to do so.

“We are actively hiring new staff, an entomologist that will be dedicated to Hawaii Island that will be starting next week as well as additional communications and vector control staff,” Virginia Pressler, director of the Department of Health, said.

Additionally, authorities will be able to take control of situations where people are actively ignoring mosquito populations on their land in Hawaii, and insecticides will be used on private property without having to use the permission of landowners under a state of emergency, according to RT.

In addition to the worrisome mosquitos spreading the dengue fever, there are still ongoing flights between American Samoa, a Pacific island affected by a Zika outbreak, and Hawaii.

Ige stressed the importance of being ready at all times for a worst case scenario in Hawaii’s islands.

“Hawaii Emergency Management Agency will be working with all the county mayors and the county civil defense coordinators to ensure that statewide we are ahead of the game and proactive in responding to vector-borne diseases.”

However, tourism in Hawaii is off to a good start in 2016. Officials say Hawaii is still a safe place to visit, and no travel advisories have been issued about Hawaii, said George Szigeti, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority.

Szigeti says “there’s no reason” for someone to cancel or change their travel plans to Hawaii.

If you should travel to Hawaii or live there, you should be aware of the dengue virus and its symptoms. The dengue fever typically presents little to no symptoms, but in a small percentage of people it can become serious or life threatening. Children may have symptoms similar to a common cold or a stomach flu. People may become sick with a sudden headache, usually between the eyes, a rash, and muscle and joint pain.

The Zika fever is similar to the dengue fever, and a person may also develop neurological problems. However, the virus typically doesn’t cause many issues in healthy adults and is typically mild. However, the Zika virus may be especially dangerous in pregnant women, and its effect on the unborn child. It is thought that the Zika virus may cause microcephaly in fetuses or result in miscarriages.

Anyone who plans to travel to Hawaii needs to be aware of the symptoms of these viruses and to see a doctor immediately if they suspect they have a virus.

[Photo by Victor Moriyama/Getty Images]