Hawaii is currently faced with a major dengue fever outbreak, representatives of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have recently reported.
Dengue fever, a dangerous tropical disease transmitted through Aedes mosquitoes infected with the dengue virus, has so far affected more than 122 people in the Big Island of Hawaii.
The number might be much higher in fact, since these are just the confirmed illnesses, reported ever since September. Out of these patients suffering from dengue fever, 29 are children, and 93 are adults, health authorities have declared.
It’s not exactly clear how the outbreak began, and officials are currently carrying out an investigation to identify the source of infection.
The disease isn’t considered to be endemic to the archipelago and can’t be transmitted from person to person, so it’s likely that it reached the region after tourists who had already been suffering from dengue fever were bitten by mosquitoes, which afterwards passed the virus to locals.
In fact, 16 of the cases identified so far involve tourists, whereas the other 106 individuals that have developed dengue fever are Big Island residents.
Dengue fever is contracted by approximately 100 million people on an annual basis, and it first makes its presence felt around 5 to 7 days following infection.
Its most common manifestations include unusually high body temperature (reaching even 104 degrees), muscle aches, debilitating headaches, nausea, acute joint pain and rash (resembling that triggered by measles).
However, some patients develop much more life-threatening versions of this disease, such as dengue hemorrhagic fever, with symptoms such as frequent vomiting, extreme abdominal pain, breathing impairment, and bleeding beneath the skin.
Another complication is dengue shock syndrome, which causes skin to turn cold and clammy, and results in weak yet elevated heart rate, accompanied by extremely low blood pressure.
Although death rates linked to dengue fever are usually limited to 1%, in the absence of an early diagnosis, and without proper medical assistance, mortality rates associated with more severe forms of this disease can soar to 50%.
Therefore, in the event of a moderate or severe infection, it is highly advisable to seek immediate hospitalization, warns Dr. Sarah Park, chief of the Disease Outbreak Control Division of the Hawaiian Department of Health.
Given the elevated risks that dengue fever poses to patients, it is recommended that tourists avoid taking trips to the Hawaii Island until the outbreak is contained, or at least take precautions so as to protect themselves from the potentially deadly insect bites.
Visitors and locals likewise should opt for long-sleeved clothing and employ mosquito repellents, especially during daytime, when the Aedes mosquitoes transmitting dengue fever are most likely to attack.
Moreover, health officials advise against exploring places with stagnant water, such as jungle areas, which are much more likely to be breeding spots for the infected insects.
It’s the first time in 4 years that Hawaii has been faced with a dengue fever crisis: back in 2011, 5 people were infected with the virus in Oahu, the most populated and third largest island of the Hawaiian archipelago.
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