Rep. Tulsi Gabbard: Governor’s Dengue Fever Emergency Declaration a Recognition of Seriousness of Hawaii Island Outbreak

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard (HI-02) yesterday commented on Hawaiʻi Governor David Ige’s proclamation declaring the dengue fever outbreak in Hawaiʻi County a state of emergency. The disease has plagued Hawaiʻi Island and threatened the state for more than sixteen weeks.

Hayden and Tulsi Squatting

“Governor Ige’s proclamation recognizes the importance and urgency of the situation Hawaiʻi Island residents are facing with dengue fever incidents increasing, and the global concern of the Zika virus continuing to spread. This proclamation and ensuing release of resources, personnel, and tools to take important action steps within our communities on Hawaiʻi Island are critical steps toward eradicating this disease-spreading mosquito, getting rid of dengue, and preventing the Zika virus from taking hold,” said Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard. “Hawaiʻi Island residents and guests deserve aggressive coordinated action from all levels of government, the private sector, and healthcare providers. The increasing number of cases, which grew to 255 today, continues to impact the health and safety of our people and the economy. Our keiki and kūpuna are especially vulnerable, as they are less able to defend themselves against these types of diseases.

“I look forward to working with the Governor and Mayor Kenoi’s team to address other issues that the community has identified remain problematic, such as the difficulty in accessing completely free testing for dengue and the timeliness of getting the results.”

Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard explained, “The difference is really going to be felt when these resources are deployed to the communities hardest hit. Miloliʻi is one hotspot where new cases are still being confirmed. Residents there found that their water catchment systems are problematic breeding grounds and require immediate work and treatment. It will cost $112,000 to do this, and they do not have the ability to fund this themselves. This is a prime example of why these resources are so urgently needed—to fund effective measures that will eliminate mosquito breeding grounds. There is no time to waste.”

The governor’s emergency proclamation will give the state access to the Major Disaster Fund, the option of waiving certain laws and regulations to expedite the outbreak response if and when needed, as well as pave the way for federal assistance should the state exhaust its resources. The state previously released the State Health Department from a 5 percent budget restriction ($250,000) to fund costs incurred while responding to the onset of the dengue outbreak. The state is also releasing the Health Department from another 5 percent restriction ($250,000) to fund eight vector control positions, one entomologist, and one communications position.

On Wednesday, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard spoke on the House floor to urge support for and passage of President Obama’s emergency request for $1.8 billion to prepare and respond to the Zika virus. The congresswoman also called for federal funding to fight dengue fever in Hawaiʻi, carried by the same Aedes aegypti mosquitoes as the Zika virus. At the end of January, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard called on Hawaiʻi Governor David Ige to declare this outbreak a state of emergency and to deploy State resources, including the National Guard, to assist with mosquito abatement, public information, clearing of mosquito breeding areas, and providing completely free and accessible testing for those with suspected symptoms. She has been meeting with state leaders, Hawaiʻi County officials and Civil Defense, military personnel, experts in the private sector and at the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and listening to concerned citizens of the Big Island, working to protect the people of Hawaiʻi from dengue fever, a debilitating disease that has no vaccine, treatment, or cure.

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