Monday, November 9, 2015

Dengue Fever

This is in response to the scads of concerned emails and texts I've been getting....

News -- Dengue  fever outbreak on Big Island. Yup. It's a disease spread by mosquitos. It is not endemic to Hawaii, but tourists sometimes bring it in. It can be a nasty disease although often people show very little symptoms or get just mild flu-like cases. There is no cure. You have to let Mother Nature take its course and hope for the best. Some symptoms can be eased with medical intervention. Some cannot. Sometimes things get worse and patients die. Pretty scary. By the way, it's also known as breakbone disease. Oooooo, that sounds bad. 

Dengue fever is spread by mosquitos. During most years, mosquitos in Hawaii are not bad and are fairly easy to keep down in numbers. But this past year has been unusually wet and warm, resulting in a huge population explosion of mosquitos. Bad news. It was only a matter of time before an infected tourist brought dengue fever to Hawaii's mosquitos. Well now it's here and it's serious. 

There have been 27 test confirmed cases so far in this most recent outbreak. People early on in this outbreak were not lab tested, so the actual number of cases is of course higher. Positive cases have been reported around the island. Yes, residents in my area have tested positive. But cases have occurred earlier during this year prior to the current scare. It's just that now there is a whole bunch rather than isolated cases. 
Not all cases are local residents. Many are tourists who brought the disease with them. That means that they were infected at their homes, not Hawaii. So the figures in the above map are a tad misleading. Also, people move around here a lot, not just the tourists. Residents themselves will visit popular beaches, get bitten, then go home to come down sick a few days later. So it's really difficult to say where the hotspots really are. 

I have ramped up my mosquito control efforts here on the homestead. I have placed additional mini-ponds around the property perimeter to act as egg laying traps. These have been either treated with a bacteria that kills mosquito larvae or have mosquito eating fish residing in them. I am also using the bacteria granules to treat standing water in bromeliads. I notice that banana trunks and taro hold small pools of water but I have never found mosquito larvae in these. But I watch. Regretfully I cannot reach all areas of small standing water, but I'm treating those that I find. Rain gutters, catchment tanks, and non-fish stocked ponds are also being treated. Anything that catches water (and is not being treated) is being emptied when found. Livestock water tanks either have fish or are treated. 

The main sticking point is other people. Not everyone is diligent about eliminating stagnant water. Nor do they appreciate someone else doing the job for them. 

Using personal mosquito repellant is another step that can be taken. Or using those burning mosquito repellant coils. The effective stuff has safety questions, but when I'm faced with the choice of dengue fever or questionable gick, I'll use the gick. Most of the stuff that people consider safe and non-toxic simply doesn't work well enough to be safe against dengue fever. So bring on the deet! 

The local government is hosting informational meetings about dengue fever. Once I attend one, I'll have better information. 

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