From Dartmouth to Dengue

Shortly before New Year’s, Waimea resident Kepa Police awoke with severe pain in his joints. It hurt so badly to move his eyes in the sockets that he had to turn his entire head to look around. A rash broke out on his body that felt like he was covered from head to toe in one giant scab. For four days he didn’t want to move. Police’s temperature topped at 104.9 and for the next five days averaged 103, yet harsh chills had him shivering beneath blankets. A Hawaii Preparatory Academy graduate and Dartmouth College student home for the holidays, he was one of the first people in Waimea to contract dengue fever.

After three days of immense fatigue, 12 hours of sleep a day, no appetite and losing 10 pounds, Police was taken to the emergency room where he was checked for strep throat, the flu and given a blood test. The results indicated the sickness to be viral, however there was doubt that he had dengue fever since Waimea historically had never been effected. Police was released but after three days with the symptoms persisting, his mother insisted on more lab work. On Jan. 5, they received the news that he had contracted dengue.

Police is no longer infectious yet the number of confirmed cases increases daily. On Jan. 13, Waipio Valley was closed to tourists.

“I was planning on spending New Year’s Eve and the following two days camping at Pine Trees with my family and friends,” Police says. “The whole event was arduous, unpleasant and just downright terrible.”

Dengue fever, also known as breakbone fever, is virally transmitted to humans by the bite of one of the most common mosquitoes, the Aedes mosquito. As of Jan. 28, 241 known cases of dengue fever on Hawaii Island were reported to the Hawaii Department of Health.

The first step for prevention is protecting oneself from being bitten. However, there are other ways to control mosquito-breeding areas, and the Hawaii State Department of Health has started a prevention campaign to educate communities, using a “Fight the Bight” slogan. County workers are also eradicating breeding sites, and trying to educate community members with public meetings throughout North Hawaii.

According to the health department, several steps can be taken to lessen the risk. First, residents should eliminate standing water in buckets, puddles and such around their homes. Also, fixing leaky faucets and outdoor hoses that drip water is important. Applying insect repellent when outdoors is crucial.

Residents are also asking State representatives to secure free testing for dengue through the health care system. Additional legislation to immediately appropriate additional funds is being submitted by Senator Josh Green of Kona.

Community information sessions are being held each Thursday in February at 11:30 a.m. at the West Hawaii Civic Center in the Mayor’s Conference Room located at 74-5044 Ane Keohokalole Hwy. in Kona to provide timely updates and answer questions about the Hawaii Island dengue outbreak.

For general information about dengue fever and the current Hawaii Island dengue investigation, call Aloha United Way at 2-1-1. To report mosquito concerns, call 322-4880.

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