Agency not do­ing enough against dengue fever

Pro­gram to ed­u­cate peo­ple about the ill­ness

Kuwait Times - - HEALTH & SCIENCE -

HONOLULU: Hawaii state Sen. Rus­sell Ru­d­er­man wor­ries when­ever there’s a mos­quito buzzing in his home. Un­til re­cently, he didn’t give the com­mon pests much thought, but now his wife is six months preg­nant and there’s a grow­ing dengue fever out­break on the Big Is­land, where they live.

“It could threaten her preg­nancy, as well as her health,” he said of the mos­quito-borne ill­ness. The state Depart­ment of Health says there were 107 con­firmed cases of dengue fever on the Big Is­land as of Thurs­day.

It says it’s work­ing with the county to spray 155 prop­er­ties, in­clud­ing schools, and has started an out­reach pro­gram to ed­u­cate peo­ple about the ill­ness. In ad­di­tion, the US Cen­ters for Dis­ease Con­trol and Preven­tion is send­ing an en­to­mol­o­gist and a tech­ni­cian to the Big Is­land next week to fur­ther as­sess the sit­u­a­tion.

How­ever, Ru­d­er­man and other Big Is­land law­mak­ers say the depart­ment is down­play­ing the prob­lem. “They are not warn­ing peo­ple ap­pro­pri­ately,” said state Rep. Richard Crea­gan, a non-prac­tic­ing physi­cian. “It’s not a lit­tle out­break now. It’s a big out­break.”

Crea­gan said he wants state health of­fi­cials to en­cour­age vol­un­tary iso­la­tion of peo­ple who are in­fected, be more ag­gres­sive about trap­ping mos­qui­toes, and warn preg­nant women who could suf­fer com­pli­ca­tions. Symp­toms of dengue fever in­clude high fever, headache, nau­sea, mus­cle aches, bone and joint pain and rash. There’s no spe­cific treat­ment, but bed rest and ac­etaminophen for fever and pain are rec­om­mended.

Symp­toms usu­ally go away com­pletely within 2 weeks. The ill­ness is not en­demic to Hawaii but can be spread by mos­qui­toes that bite in­fected trav­el­ers from en­demic ar­eas. Dr. Lyle Petersen, the di­rec­tor of the CDC’s Di­vi­sion of Vec­tor-Borne Diseases who will be on the is­land next week, pre­vi­ously said the out­break isn’t huge com­pared to other parts of the world.

“The level of alarm is a lit­tle higher than it needs to be,” added state Health Di­rec­tor Dr Ginny Pressler. “We’re try­ing to raise aware­ness. We’re not try­ing to raise fear.” The depart­ment re­ceived an emer­gency ap­pro­pri­a­tion of up to $75,000 to hire pub­lic re­la­tions firm Ben­net Group Strate­gic Com­mu­ni­ca­tions to help with com­mu­ni­ca­tions ef­forts. The firm cre­ated the depart­ment’s “Fight the Bite” cam­paign to ed­u­cate peo­ple about ways to con­trol mos­qui­toes.

Mos­quito-breed­ing ar­eas

The same com­pany was hired to help with a 2001 out­break that lasted more than eight months, with 92 cases on Maui, 26 on Oahu and four on Kauai. “Why don’t they spend one-tenth of that PR money on med­i­cal re­sponse?” Ru­d­er­man asked. “Don’t worry, they’re telling us, but there’s no one here on the Big Is­land who isn’t wor­ry­ing.”

Stores are sell­ing lots of bug spray, but res­i­dents gen­er­ally aren’t chang­ing their at­tire in light of the out­break. Many are still wear­ing shorts and T-shirts in­stead of long sleeves and pants, as health of­fi­cials rec­om­mend. There’s con­cern the out­break will hurt the tourism in­dus­try, but of­fi­cials say they have not seen sig­nif­i­cant vis­i­tor can­ce­la­tions.

At the Sher­a­ton Kona Re­sort & Spa at Keauhou Bay, grounds main­te­nance and land­scape work­ers are tak­ing ex­tra mea­sures to clear stand­ing wa­ter that can serve as mos­quito-breed­ing ar­eas, said spokes­woman Katie Vanes. “Our as­so­ciates are pre­pared to speak with con­cerned guests, but we have not re­ceived a sig­nif­i­cant or fre­quent amount of in­quiries,” she said.

Kirstin Ka­haloa, ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Kona-Ko­hala Cham­ber of Commerce, hopes tourists aren’t ner­vous about vis­it­ing the Big Is­land. “It’s still a safe place to visit as long as you’re fol­low­ing CDC rec­om­men­da­tions to be care­ful,” she said. “We’re here and we’re OK. We’re tak­ing pre­cau­tions.” — AP

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Kuwait

© PressReader. All rights reserved.