Saturday, December 5, 2015

Dengue Fever Update

To date there have been 136 confirmed cases of dengue fever. Of course that doesn't include the people who have no medical insurance and thus didn't go to a doctor. Since there is no treatment for dengue, people who can't spare the cash simply skip being tested. Although this is mostly based upon hearsay, there are supposedly dozens of people who have had classic dengue symptoms and are untested. Truth? I don't know. And according to what I've read in a few medical research reports, only 25% of infected people may show classic dengue fever symptoms, meaning that there could be plenty of people around with subclinical dengue. Subclinical infections produce little or no symptoms, but the person is still capable of infecting mosquitos without knowing it. Thus this outbreak is far from being over. 

The public has been increasingly critical of the Department of Health, Civil Defense, and State governor's response in dealing with this problem. As is so typically Hawaiian, there has been less action compared to the amount of talk story. With public pressure mounting, plus the story being featured on CNN's website news, the State DOH has finally brought CDC officials to the Big Island for an review and analysis. 

There has been a lot of complaints about untreated standing water on county lands and lands with absentee owners. The public wants Vector Control to seek out these mosquito breeding grounds and treat them. Officials appear to be finally addressing this issue. 

Being of the school of "if you want something done, do it yourself", I've been going around my own neighborhood checking for mosquito breeding areas and treating them. I've given mosquito control granules to neighbors in order to treat catchment tanks. I've removed dozens of old tires, which are favored mosquito breeding grounds. I've dumped and removed old buckets, pots, and other water holding containers that I've come upon. I've treated abandoned catchment tanks. I've treated areas where water has collected. I've fogged dense vegetation where there are hefty mosquito populations. This time, effort, and expense is designed to protect ME. Surely the neighborhood benefits too, but I admit I'm quite selfish in my goals. And my efforts seem to be paying off because I see considerably less mosquitos around. 

While I believe that the reduction of aedes mosquitos is a public health responsibility, I haven't seen the official response to date being serious enough. That's just my opinion. But now that the CDC oversight is here, the mosquito war will hopefully step up. Of course the public needs to be convinced of the seriousness of the situation and get them rallied to both eliminate mosquito breeding grounds and protect their own bodies from mosquito bites. But at least the county and state are now doing more property surveys (because there have been more cases) and more mosquito spraying of parks & schools located near the homes of victims. 

Mosquito repellent has been a big, big issue. There has been virtually none around. What little arrives in a store in the morning is usually all sold by lunchtime. In my area, up until the week the CDC was scheduled to arrive, there was almost none available anywhere at any price. That means 3 months where people wanting mosquito protection were not able to get it. With the CDC arrival, stores suddenly have sprays, lotions, pumps, wipes, bracelets, tags, fogs, bombs, and coils. Thank heaven, finally! But I ask myself, why has it taken so long to get this stuff into the stores? My observations yesterday showed that this stuff is flying off the shelves. Most is already bought up in my area, leaving little still for sale. Let's hope more arrives with the next barge. 

Why didn't people just mail order it in? Believe me, I tried. While I could get plenty of dunks, BT granules, and mosquito coils, no one would ship anything with DEET in it. Thus the island was cut off from the mosquito repellent that they so desperately needed. Mosquito netting and clothing is in such high demand that I know people who have been waiting 8 weeks for it to be delivered. 

One aspect that the State of Hawaii seems, to me, to be intentionally avoiding is adequately warning tourists. There are no informational materials being presented to tourists arriving onto Big Island. In my area, a number of businesses are being proactive in educating tourists passing through about dengue. But then of course, there is no mosquito repellent for tourists to buy here. Eh.....have a nice vacation. I have personally talked with dozens and dozens of tourists who have heard zero about the mosquito danger. So the State surely isn't getting the word out. 

While the dengue fever problem isn't a raging epidemic yet.......the CDC calls it a really doesn't want to become a statistic for some DOH statistician  In my opinion, even one person getting it is one too many. And until this situation gets aggressively tackled, dengue is in danger of becoming endemic in Hawaii. Now that's something the State had better seriously think about. Endemic dengue? Kiss tourism goodbye! 

1 comment:

  1. You got that all 100% right. A little story: When we were camping on Oahu a couple years ago at a place I so "fondly" called Mecka-lecka-hiney-ho (Thanks Peed Wee Herman) I looked like I had the measles. On my face alone I counted 24 bites. It was not a good thing. So I would not come to Hawaii anymore without DEET in my bag. BTW I would be happy to send some to you. That's ridiculous to not be able to get it.