Hawaii’s Dengue Fever Outbreak Expands
136 residents and visitors have fallen ill so far
An outbreak of dengue fever on the Big Island of Hawaii that started in September has grown, with 119 Hawaiian residents and 17 tourists falling ill, according to Hawaii’s Department of Health.
Dengue fever, a mosquito-borne disease, is not endemic to Hawaii, but it has travelled there, as well as to other popular warm-weather destinations, from elsewhere.
Nicknamed “breakbone fever” for the severe pains it can cause in limbs, dengue fever is a flu-like illness. Symptoms include a high fever, headache, nausea, swollen glands or rashes and muscle, joint and even eye pain that lasts a week or more, according to the World Health Organization. It is rarely fatal.
If you’re planning a trip to Hawaii in the near future, is it safe to go? The Hawaii Department of Health says yes.
According to an FAQ, “The Big Island and the rest of Hawaii remain safe destinations for visitors and residents. The current outbreak is very small by global standards, and minor compared to other popular tropical tourist destinations.”
That said, you should take some precautions. Here are some tips to reduce your risk of mosquito bites and therefore dengue fever, courtesy of the Mayo Clinic. Some of them should influence your packing list.
- Stay in air-conditioned or well-screened housing.
- Avoid being outdoors at dawn and dusk, when mosquitoes are most active.
- Wear long sleeves, pants, socks and shoes in areas where mosquitoes live.
- Use mosquito repellant. Choose one with 10 percent DEET. Also apply permethrin to your clothes and camping gear. (Never apply permethrin to your skin).
Even though a combo sunscreen/insect repellent product may sound convenient, opt for two separate products instead.
Parts of the Big Island may pose a greater dengue risk than others. “Current investigations have identified South Kona (in particular Hookena and Honaunau) as an area of particular concern,” according to the Department of Health. But it stresses the entire island is considered to be at risk.
If you suspect you may have dengue fever, see a doctor and avoid further exposure to mosquitoes, according to Hawaii’s Department of Health. Some cases of dengue can progress to a severe state, so it’s important to have a health care provider monitor your illness.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, “When infected, early recognition and prompt supportive treatment can substantially lower the risk of medical complications and death.”
Related: How to Treat Bug Bites