Last updated: 05:39 PM ET, Sun November 22 2015

CDC: Don’t Cancel Hawaii Vacations Because of Dengue Outbreak

Impacting Travel | Michael Isenbek | November 22, 2015

CDC: Don’t Cancel Hawaii Vacations Because of Dengue Outbreak

A dengue fever outbreak is currently mushrooming on the Big Island of Hawaii, but as a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) official said Friday, that doesn’t mean you should cancel your trip, the Associated Press reported.

There have been 88 confirmed cases since Sept. 11, with only 13 of those being tourists, the state Department of Health said to the AP.

It isn’t abnormal for 400 million people worldwide to be infected by this mosquito-borne virus per year, the AP explained. "This isn't a huge outbreak compared to elsewhere," Dr. Lyle Petersen, director of the CDC's Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, told the AP.

Dengue fever is not endemic to Hawaii, but can be spread by travelers who come from endemic regions. You can only be infected via the bite of an infected mosquito, not from person-to-person contact, the AP noted.

"Many, many more people are traveling internationally, thus the possibility of importing a disease like dengue to a place like Hawaii ... is obviously going up," Petersen said to the AP.

“Depending on the quality of medical treatment,” as the AP put it, dengue fever isn’t fatal — which is good news, but weathering the virus isn’t exactly a boatload of fun. High fever, headache, nausea, muscle aches, bone and joint pain and rash are all in store for the sufferer. There is no vaccination or specific treatment: just bed rest, plus acetaminophen for fever and pain, and symptoms typically clear up completely in 1 to 2 weeks, according to the AP.

No deaths have resulted from this recent outbreak in Hawaii, state Department of Health spokesperson Janice Okubo revealed to the AP.

But just to be sure, as per the official CDC dengue site, protect yourself from mosquito bites and go on your vacation as planned. "If you consider how many tens of thousands of people come to the islands every day the risk is extremely small," he said to the AP. "Simple measures like mosquito repellent ... can greatly reduce your risk."

The Hawaii Tourism Authority is keeping an eye on the outbreak’s progress and intends to keep tourists informed. "To date, we have not seen an increase in cancellations due to dengue fever," Hawaii Tourism Authority President and CEO George Szigeti said in a statement, per the AP. "And at this point, it is too early to determine if there has been any economic impact on our industry."

Mosquito control measures are key, and authorities are trying spread the word to all corners of the Big Island, especially in rural areas.

"I know our message isn't getting out to everyone out there," said State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park to lawmakers at an informational briefing, according to the AP. She requested that residents look out for their neighbors and help them eradicate mosquito breeding grounds, such as standing water.

The CDC is supporting Hawaii health officials and the Hawaii National Guard flew in sprayer equipment from Honolulu — all in the effort to stop the dengue fever outbreak cold.


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