Hawaii officials ask public to help stop dengue fever spread

HONOLULU (AP) – The number of people in Hawaii infected by dengue fever continued to rise, and officials asked the public to help limit the spread of the virus.

The state Department of Health reported Monday that 112 people have been infected on Hawaii’s Big Island since Sept. 11, including 14 visitors to the Aloha State.

There have been no cases of dengue fever so far on Oahu, Maui or Kauai, said Virginia Pressler, director of the state Department of Health.

“Although there is no dengue on Oahu, Kauai and Maui, we all feel for our brothers and sisters,” Pressler said. “My family all lives on Hawaii Island. We are doing everything we can collectively.”

Officials asked people throughout the state to remove standing water where mosquitoes breed and dump excess water out of potted plants or toys in the yard. Taking these precautions could help reduce the chances of the virus spreading to other islands, they said.

Stan Oka, urban forestry administrator for the Honolulu Department of Parks and Recreation, tipped a potted ti plant to demonstrate how people should remove standing water from around their homes. He suggested spraying large, leafy plants with soapy water, especially plants rooted in the ground or large potted plants that were too heavy to tip.

“It will form a barrier where mosquitoes can’t breed,” Oka said of the soapy spray.

Residents were asked to repair holes in their screens and keep doors closed to limit interactions with mosquitoes. Officials recommend wearing long-sleeved clothing and pants and using bug spray to prevent mosquito bites.

They also cautioned residents against setting bulky garbage items out on the curbs early or allowing water to pool in garbage cans.

Those capturing rainfall in barrels were asked to keep a fine mesh screen over their water supplies.

The outbreak hasn’t affected Hawaii tourism, officials said.

The virus is spread through mosquito bites. Those infected with dengue fever on Hawaii Island have largely recovered, Pressler said.

“The most important thing they can do is to prevent themselves from being bitten by mosquitoes, because that is in fact how this disease is passed on,” she said.

(Copyright 2015 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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