Dengue Fever

Dengue Fever
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Dengue Fever is in Hawaii. What is it? Can you get it? How do you avoid it?

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Dengue Fever in Hawaii has been a hot news topic lately, but is there really anything to worry about? Let's dig into what Dengue Fever is, what it does, and how you can get it (as well as avoid it).

What Is Dengue Fever?

Dengue Fever, or Breakbone Fever, is caused by the Dengue virus that is transmitted by mosquitoes. Symptoms of Dengue include headache, fever, joint and muscle pain, and skin rash that may look similar to the measles. In rare cases, Dengue can develop into Dengue Hemorrhagic Fever which is a serious and life-threatening condition.

Where Is Dengue Fever?

Dengue Fever has become a worldwide problem since the 1950s but it rarely shows up in the continental USA. It's far more common in areas like Latin America, Southeast Asia, and Pacific Islands. Part of those Pacific Islands would include the Hawaiian Islands.

Right now, Dengue Fever is a hot topic with the media when it comes to Hawaii. The Big Island has had several confirmed cases of the virus.

The Big Island has had (as of the end of 2015) a total of 195 confirmed cases. Of those, 176 are from residents of the Big Island and 19 are from visitors. 158 are from adults while 37 have been from those under 18 years of age. The initial onset in Hawaii started from September 11, 2015.

Why is this suddenly an issue in Hawaii? Did the crazy amount of hurricanes we've had blow some rogue mosquitoes here? Did some infect biters make it here on a boat? Or has it been here all along but our crazy El Nino In Hawaii weather in 2015 allow more mosquito breeding than usual? Right now it's hard to say but it is here and if you're going to the Big Island you should be aware of it and protect yourself from it. After all, you don't want to have to buy the "I went to Hawaii and all I got is Dengue Fever" t-shirt.

Dengue Fever Treatment

There is currently no commercially available vaccine to the virus. If the infection is caught early on and treatment is given soon enough then the risk of medical complications or death is greatly reduced.

Current treatments include fluids and pain-relievers but severe cases may require hospital care. If you think you have Dengue Fever it's important to seek medical advice right away as only lab tests and can confirm the existence of the virus.

People who get the virus a second time have a much high risk of developing a severe reaction.

Dengue Fever Prevention

Since there is no cure for Dengue Fever, prevention is the best medicine, and in this case prevention means not getting a mosquito bite in the first place. Since the virus is primarily transmitted by mosquitoes, avoiding mosquitoes in areas known to have the virus is key. Mosquitoes can live indoors or outdoors and bite day and night.

If you are vacationing in an area of concern, then choosing a hotel with screens on the windows and doors (or with air conditioning) is a must. Sleep under a mosquito net (tucked under the mattress) if that isn't possible or in a room that isn't well screened. Nets that are treated with Permethrin provide more protection as Permethrin is an insecticide that kills mosquitos. Bed nets shouldn't be washed or exposed to sunlight as that breaks down the Permethrin.

When you're not sleeping, be sure to stay covered up with long sleeves and long pants. Because mosquitoes can bite through thing clothes you may want to consider treating your clothes with Permethrin or other approved insecticides.

Use an EPA approved insect repellent and follow the directions for application and re-application. Make sure the repellent you use is meant for skin, avoid any that aren't (Permethrin is not intended for skin application). When using repellents on children, always follow the manufacturer’s instructions for the correct quantity to use as well as age requirements.

If you live in an area that may have the Dengue virus, then mosquito control should be a priority. Mosquitos thrive in wet areas with standing water. This could be rain gutters, puddles, ponds, barrels, or just about any area that catches and holds even a small amount of water. Mosquitos find these areas and lay their eggs next to the water. The key to controlling the mosquito population is to eliminate all areas of standing water. Remove trash and debris that has piled up that could be containing standing water, empty buckets, drain stagnant ponds and pools, etc.

Dengue Fever References