Dengue fever fight comes home

Nelsa Sadaya used a simple mixture of tap water and dishwashing soap to spray dozens of potted plants surrounding her Kalihi Valley home yesterday to try to stop the spread of dengue fever.

Sadaya also learned yesterday that a similar solution of water and vegetable oil also helps kill mosquitoes — while sparing her plants.

“Mosquitoes everywhere,” Sadaya said. “This is simple.”

With the state’s mosquito-killing efforts nearly wiped out from budget cuts, state Rep. John Mizuno (D, Kalihi) and City Councilwoman Tulsi Gabbard Tamayo, whose district includes Kalihi Valley, encouraged Sadaya and her husband, Zaldy, to fill the gap in Hawaii’s mosquito eradication efforts themselves yesterday by pouring out standing water and by spraying plants with diluted vegetable oil or dishwashing soap.

“Everyone can take their own preventative measures,” Gabbard Tamayo said. “Each and every one of us has to do our part. … This is not isolated to Kalihi Valley. This is a statewide issue.”

Dengue eyed in East Maui

WAILUKU – The state Department of Health is investigating two suspected East Maui cases of dengue fever, a potentially deadly tropical disease.

There is no cure for dengue fever, which is spread through mosquito bites and not human contact. However, most people survive outbreaks in the United States, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The CDC is investigating the two East Maui cases, and county officials said they are awaiting confirmation from the federal agency on the suspected cases.

The state did not reveal details about the individuals involved or give a specific area. But official sources report that most people survive the symptoms, including sudden onset of fever, severe headaches, eye, joint and muscle pain, minor bleeding and a rash that often appears in the first 24 to 48 hours. The fever usually begins in four or five days after infection. The symptoms can last for up to two weeks and can include vomiting and other stomach problems just before recovery.

The last dengue fever outbreak in Maui County occurred in East Maui from late 2001 to spring 2002, when at least 20 people had the painful fever and up to 100 more were suspected of contracting it.

State: Clear standing water to avoid mosquitoes

HONOLULU – After recent rains, the state Department of Health is urging people to clear standing water from areas where mosquitoes breed.

The precaution is aimed at preventing the appearance in Hawaii of mosquito-transmitted diseases, such as dengue fever, which has increased to epidemic levels this year in parts of the United States and the tropics and subtropics.

“Reducing the mosquito population can prevent the spread of serious illness from infected persons to others by way of biting mosquitoes,” said Keith Ridley, acting director of the Health Department. “Fortunately at this time, dengue fever, West Nile virus, malaria and other mosquito-transmitted illnesses are not endemic in Hawaii. We all must do all we can to protect our islands against these possible threats to public health.”

This year, five cases of dengue fever contracted outside of the state by travelers who became ill during their stay in Hawaii were investigated by the department. In 2009, six imported cases were reported, and in 2008 there were 14 imported cases.

Mosquitoes transmit the illness to people when they bite them. Symptoms include a sudden onset of fever, severe headaches, eye, joint and muscle pain, and rash. The rash typically appears on the hands, arms, legs and feet for three to four days after the fever begins. The symptoms usually go away within one to two weeks.

Sometimes people with dengue fever can develop blood-clotting problems, a condition called dengue hemorrhagic fever, a serious illness with abnormal bleeding and very low blood pressure.