Although there is no imminent danger for most of Maui, suspected cases of the potentially deadly dengue fever in East Maui and confirmed cases on O‘ahu have elicited a call-to-action throughout the Valley Isle.
Our spring rains pool into perfect habitats for mosquito larvae, which, in their adult phase, carry many tropical diseases, including dreaded dengue.
Although the tropical disease is not spread directly from human to human, a mosquito carrying the virus spreads it through a host it has bitten, who then gives the ailment to more mosquitoes, which transmit the virus to more human victims. So although mosquitoes may not hitchhike from Keanae to Kahului, an infected person traveling across the island can unknowingly download dengue to a mosquito in a neighborhood near you.
There is no cure or immunization shot available, and although symptoms may be manageable and most people survive the virus with appropriate care, everyone should take precautions. It is worth noting that the illness is also called “break-bone fever” or “bone-crushing fever” because of the severity of its symptoms, which include incredible muscle aches and headaches, severe joint and eye pain, minor bleeding, an early-onset rash, and of course, a fever. Symptoms can last up to two weeks and can also include vomiting and other stomach problems prior to recovery.
Rather than diagnose yourself, dengue expert and Maui District Health Officer Dr. Lorrin Pang advises anyone with feverish symptoms to contact a health professional.
Maui County Emergency Management Officer Anna Foust said that mosquito control is key to mitigating a large outbreak. She recommended that residents cover up with light fabrics and use mosquito repellent, but most importantly, she urges residents to drain or dismantle containers, puddles and ditches of standing water.
Nonprofit, state and county officials are preparing an all-out war on mosquitoes to stop another outbreak from occurring, but health officials ask us to be especially vigilant about eliminating these breeding grounds.
Pang implores East Maui residents to do everything they can to eliminate mosquitoes in their community to prevent suspected cases of dengue from turning into an epidemic.
“We are being bombarded by people who are traveling right now, and they could be carrying it,” said Pang. “It’s dengue fever time across the globe.”