Rep. Tulsi Gabbard is aking Gov. David Ige to declare a state of emergency surrounding the dengue fever outbreak and put more resources into fighting the spread of the disease, including deploying the National Guard.
The World Health Organization is also warning that an outbreak of Zika, another disease carried by the same mosquitoes that spread dengue, could spread worldwide. Federal health officials say Hawaii is ill-prepared to deal with a Zika outbreak.
Gabbard wants the state to step up its mosquito abatement actions as well as boosting its public information effort and providing free testing for anyone with symptoms.
According to a press release, Gabbard has spoken with the governor and written to him asking for the following immediate actions:
• Completely free and accessible testing for those who suspect they have symptoms of Dengue Fever. While the cost of the test may be free, residents and visitors are still charged for visits to a physician, nurse, or clinic in order for their blood to be drawn. This could easily be solved by ensuring there are free access points island-wide, and by deploying state or National Guard medical personnel as a mobile testing unit that can travel to both populated and remote locations across the island, draw blood, and get samples to the lab for expedited results.
• Allocate resources to the Department of Health for development and execution of a comprehensive public information and public engagement campaign with quality review measures. Current “Fight the Bite” efforts fall far short of providing residents and visitors with the information they need.
• Provide a full-time entomologist on Hawaii Island dedicated to eradication, reduction, and prevention of further spread of the Dengue virus.
• Allocate resources to hire vector control personnel, purchase more sprayers and other necessary equipment and supplies.
• Provide free supply and distribution of Ovitraps throughout the community to empower local residents to help prevent the spread of the Aedes aegypti mosquito. World Health Organization report studies have shown that population densities can be reduced below disease-transmission thresholds with sufficiently large numbers of frequently serviced traps.
• Appoint a Dengue Czar who can act as the coordinator of efforts with all parties within the state, county, federal, private sector, and community to ensure the objectives are being met.
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Patti Epler is the Editor and General Manager of Civil Beat. She's been a reporter and editor for more than 30 years, primarily in Hawaii, Alaska, Washington and Arizona. You can follow her on twitter at @PattiEpler, email her at email@example.com or call her at 808-377-0561.