Hawaii is relaunching an expanded “Fight the Bite” campaign in light of the growing global threat of Zika.
Earlier this year, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) activated its Emergency Operations Center (EOC) for Zika at the highest level of activation following action by the World Health Organization (WHO), which declared a Public Health Emergency of International Concern over the Zika virus and the health problems it can cause.
“Hawaii is always going to be at risk for mosquito-borne diseases, not only because we have mosquitoes year-round, but also we have so many travelers coming to and from Hawaii with imported cases of mosquito-borne illnesses on a regular basis,” said Department of Health director Dr. Virginia Pressler.
The revamped “Fight the Bite” campaign has two key components. The first is a response plan developed specifically for mosquito-borne diseases — a coordinated effort among the DOH, Hawaii Emergency Management Agency and county emergency management/civil defense agencies. It outlines ongoing preparedness activities to take place when there are no cases, as well as response measures for all imported cases and measures in the event of infected mosquitoes transmitting a disease locally.
It comes on the heels of the recent Hawaii Island dengue fever outbreak, which began in October 2015 and continued through the spring of this year, resulting in 264 cases that likely began as a result of an infected traveler.
The second component includes a research-based public education campaign that leverages numerous broadcast and social media channels to build awareness about mosquito-borne disease prevention.
Starting in early July, Hawaii residents can expect to hear “Fight the Bite” messages on local radio and television stations statewide, and see graphics in malls and shopping centers. The $250,000 media campaign is being funded by the state and will include community engagement activities to spearhead and encourage grassroots efforts to reduce mosquito breeding areas across the state.
DOH is coordinating closely with tourism officials to ensure the “Fight the Bite” message reaches visitors to Hawaii, and includes updated “Fight the Bite” information at key points-of-entry, such as airports and harbors.
“We are working together with our travel industry partners to educate their workers, guests and customers,” said George D. Szigeti Hawaii Tourism Authority President and CEO. “We all need to do our part to protect Hawaii from mosquito-borne illnesses.”
In April, a team from Hawaii attended the CDC’s Zika Action Plan Summit, and this month, DOH requested federal funds totaling approximately $4 million to support statewide Zika-related control, monitoring, and prevention efforts. Federal funds are being made available through the Public Health Emergency Preparedness Cooperative Agreement; Epidemiology and Laboratory Capacity Grant; and Hawaii Birth Defects Surveillance, Intervention, and Follow-up for Zika Virus Grant.
Last week, Hawaii also participated as one of a few selected states in a Zika response exercise in Washington D.C.
“Hawaii is fortunate none of these diseases are endemic or native to our state, and we need to work together to make sure it stays this way,” said Gov. David Ige.