Hawaii Facing Rise in Dengue Fever Cases

Hawaii Facing Rise in Dengue Fever Cases 122 cases of the extremely painful, but rarely fatal, disease have been reported since mid-September
WebMD News from HealthDay

By Dennis Thompson

HealthDay Reporter

THURSDAY, Dec. 3, 2015 (HealthDay News) -- Do your winter travel plans include Hawaii? You may want to pack bug repellent, experts say.

That's because the Big Island of Hawaii is facing an outbreak of dengue fever -- a mosquito-borne virus that can cause terrible headache and crushing pain in the muscles and joints.

State health officials have confirmed 122 cases of dengue fever on the Big Island since mid-September, including 106 local residents and 16 visitors to the island. One other case has been reported on the island of Oahu, but health officials say it was not locally transmitted and is not tied to the new outbreak.

The jump in cases has prompted top experts from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to visit the island this week to try and help, CNN reported Wednesday.

"I don't think travelers should be overly worried, but they should take care to avoid mosquitoes as much as possible," said infectious disease expert Dr. Amesh Adalja, a senior associate at the UPMC Center for Health Security in Baltimore.

Called "breakbone fever" due to the extreme pain it causes, dengue fever can require hospitalization in moderate and extreme cases, according to Dr. Sarah Park, Hawaii's state epidemiologist and chief of the Hawaii Disease Outbreak Control Division.

Symptoms include severe headache, often with piercing pain behind the eyes, and terrible muscle and joint aches, Park said. Sufferers also can develop a full-body rash and run fevers as high as 104 degrees.

The symptoms typically appear five to seven days after being bitten by an infected mosquito. Dengue is not transmitted person-to-person.

There is no cure for dengue fever, although a vaccine is poised for federal approval, said Adalja.

However, the disease is rarely fatal in developed nations, according to the CDC. Only about 1 percent of people die from dengue if the disease is detected early and treated properly.

Both the CDC and the Hawaii Department of Health are urging travelers to protect themselves from mosquito bites.

People particularly should steer clear of areas with lots of standing water, where mosquitoes can breed. These include jungle terrain and other overgrown areas, Park said.

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