Lawmakers grill health officials on dengue fever outbreak


Does the state have a grip on the dengue outbreak?

Lawmakers grilled health officials about it Friday, and not all of them liked the answers they heard.

As of Nov. 20, 88 people on Hawaii Island have now been diagnosed with dengue fever.

With that number climbing by the day, lawmakers think more needs to be done to keep people safe, and they didn’t hold back.

Health department officials and Hawaii County Civil Defense started the hearing by explaining how they are fighting the dengue outbreak on Hawaii Island.

“This outbreak will end at some point. It may be next month, maybe months from now, I don’t know, but it will end. The threat will never end,” said Dr. Sarah Park, state epidemiologist.

DOH teams are spraying areas of concern for mosquitoes, investigating cases, educating the community and working with the homeless to make sure everyone is getting the message about prevention.

Rep. Richard Creagan, D, Hawaii Island, said, “I’m not satisfied as I think there are a lot of questions that weren’t answered, and need to be answered, because this is an emergency.”

Lawmakers say they want to see more action, and pressed health officials. They wanted to know why only certain schools are scheduled to be sprayed for mosquitoes this weekend.

In response, the county said ideally all campuses would be treated, but right now they are focusing on areas where confirmed cases are nearby.

“I continue to be upset, because it’s on behalf of my people in Kona,” said Sen. Josh Green, D, Hawaii Island, who is pushing for more outreach.

Green wanted to know why the Centers for Disease Control isn’t on the ground here in Hawaii. But Dr. Park says her team has been working with the CDC since the outbreak started.

“I frankly have requested on the ground support,” Park said. “They will work with our entomologist to strategize on the trappings, so again going back to the trap, to the strategy, on how do we end the outbreak.”

Some lawmakers also asked health officials why there isn’t a lab on Hawaii Island to test for dengue, but Park said it’s not that easy.

Lawmakers said if it’s money they need, they’re willing to fight to make it happen.

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