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Statewide Campaign on Mosquito-Borne Diseases and Threats to Hawaii to be Announced

Governor Ige and the Mayors of Honolulu, Maui, Kauai, and Hawaii Counties will announce a new statewide public education campaign to build awareness of mosquito-borne diseases and their threat to Hawaii.

Mosquito Bite

The state and counties will also announce the state’s planning efforts to prevent, prepare, and protect Hawaii from mosquito-borne disease outbreaks this summer and throughout the year. State departments will mention special efforts underway to reach visitors, traveling residents and students with guidance on preventing the spread of Zika.

Why: As a favorite travel destination, Hawaii is identified as one of the nation’s higher risk areas for the potential spread of Zika virus. With the Aedes Aegypti mosquito present in our state, year-long warm climate, and past experience with dengue outbreaks, mosquitos pose a serious threat to our residents and visitors.

When:  Thursday, June 30, 2016 at 1:00 p.m.

Where: Governor’s Ceremonial Chambers, State Capitol 5th floor

Who:

  • Governor David Y. Ige
  • Mayor Kirk Caldwell, City & County of Honolulu
  • Mayor Alan Arakawa, County of Maui
  • Mayor Bernard Carvalho, County of Kauai
  • Mayor Billy Kenoi, County of Hawaii
  • Dr. Virginia Pressler, Director, Hawaii Department of Health
    Major General Arthur J. Logan, Adjutant General, Department of Defense
  • George Szigeti, Director, Hawaii Tourism Authority
  • Ross Higashi, Airports Division Deputy Director, Department of Transportation
  • Steven Schatz, Deputy Superintendent, Department of Education

Hawaii Team Attends National Zika Action Plan Summit Held at U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) today held a Zika Action Plan Summit, bringing together state and local senior officials to provide them with the information and tools needed to improve Zika preparedness and response within their state and jurisdictions. A delegation of leaders from the Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) are attending the summit at CDC Headquarters in Atlanta to share their experiences and learn from their counterparts across the country.

This timely opportunity comes as the state is experiencing an uptick in imported Zika cases, among other mosquito-borne illnesses, such as dengue fever and chikungunya.

Attendees were provided with presentations on the latest scientific knowledge about the Zika virus, including effects it can have on pregnant women and best-practices for mosquito control. One of the greatest challenges posed by this disease is that scientists are still learning more about Zika’s symptoms and how the disease can be transmitted.

“The summit provided an excellent opportunity for Hawaii to share our experience and knowledge while learning from other states about specific issues around the science behind Zika. This is especially important for our nation as we head into the summer months, when temperatures will rise and travel into and out of the country will peak,” said Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler.

“It is crucial for Hawaii to have a unified outreach and response plan that is both scalable and flexible, and easily implemented at all levels of government.”

The summit also provided an opportunity to discuss communications challenges and effective strategies for increasing public awareness about Zika virus and precautionary measures that all people should take, especially pregnant women and women planning on becoming pregnant.

microcephaly

Pregnant women need to take special precautions against Zika virus and should avoid travel to areas where Zika is spreading. If a Zika infected mosquito bites a woman that is pregnant or may become pregnant, the Zika virus can be passed to her baby during pregnancy or at the time of birth. Scientists believe the Zika virus may be linked to microcephaly in newborns, a birth defect where a baby’s head is smaller than expected when compared with other babies of the same sex and age.

Scientists also believe that Zika virus can be spread from an infected man to his sexual partners. It is still unknown how long the virus can be spread in this way after the infected male’s symptoms have cleared.

Most people who contract the Zika virus will have mild or no symptoms. The most common symptoms of Zika include rash, joint pain and red eyes (conjunctivitis), but can also include muscle pain and headaches. DOH urges people who are showing symptoms and have a recent history of travel to areas experiencing Zika outbreaks, to see their healthcare provider as soon as possible for testing.

For additional information about Zika virus and precautions, visit DOH’s Disease Outbreak Control Division’s website at http://health.hawaii.gov/docd/dib/disease/zika_virus/.

For travel information and advisories, visit CDC’s website at http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/page/zika-travel-information.

Hawaii Department of Health Takes Critical Role in National Efforts to Control Zika Virus

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) State Laboratories Division is taking an active role in national efforts to control the spread of Zika Virus. Hawaii’s State Laboratories recently provided confirmatory testing for samples from American Samoa and the Marshall Islands to support these U. S. Affiliated Pacific Island Jurisdictions in verifying disease outbreak activity.

A mosquito laying eggs

A mosquito laying eggs

“Hawaii is fortunate to have an experienced and capable public health laboratory that can serve our state with timely and quality testing under emergency conditions,” said Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler. “That same capability is not available in many other areas of the Pacific, and providing lab support to these areas, when we can, is critical to controlling the spread of diseases and reducing the risk of introduction to Hawaii.”

“With Zika emerging in U.S. island territories of American Samoa, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands, the nation is on alert,” said Dr. Thane Hancock, team leader for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) American Samoa Zika Response.

The timely response by the Hawaii Department of Health’s State Laboratories staff provided critical support for local disease investigations and for monitoring potentially exposed pregnant women.”

This month, DOH began using the CDC developed real-time reverse transcriptase (rRT) polymerase chain reaction (PCR) test for Zika virus. With this recently developed capability, DOH provided officials in American Samoa and the Republic of the Marshall Islands (Majuro), the first laboratory evidence of Zika transmission in these two U.S. affiliated jurisdictions.

“It’s always a balance to ensure our state needs are met first, but the staff here is more than willing to step up to support national efforts,” said State Laboratories Director Dr. Christian Whelen. “This work helps to better prepare us for potential issues that could arise in our state, and identifying and controlling outbreaks in the Pacific benefits all of us.”

While PCR is the best test during early onset of symptoms, testing for antibody to the viruses is preferred after about a week of illness. CDC is shipping antibody test materials to Hawaii so that the department’s State Laboratories Division can establish these capabilities over the next few weeks.

“The testing is very similar to the methodology our labs use for other RNA viruses such as Chikungunya, dengue, influenza, and measles,” added Whelen. “Our laboratory staff have been thoroughly trained to safely work with high risk specimens.”

DOH continues to work with the healthcare community, state, county, and federal officials to prepare for infectious diseases that threaten Hawaii and the Pacific. The State Laboratories Division administers a statewide laboratories program which conducts and regulates scientific analysis in support of environmental quality, health and safety, and infectious disease monitoring and control activities.

Hawaii Department of Health Receives Confirmation of Zika Infection in Baby Born with Microcephaly

The Hawaii State Department of Health (DOH) has received laboratory confirmation from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) of a past Zika virus infection in a baby recently born with microcephaly in a hospital on Oahu. The mother likely had Zika infection when she was residing in Brazil in May 2015 and her newborn acquired the infection in the womb. Neither the baby nor the mother are infectious, and there was never a risk of transmission in Hawaii.

microcephaly“We are saddened by the events that have affected this mother and her newborn,” said DOH State Epidemiologist Dr. Sarah Park. “This case further emphasizes the importance of the CDC travel recommendations released today. Mosquitos can carry serious diseases, as we know too well with our current dengue outbreak and it is imperative that we all Fight the Bite by reducing mosquito breeding areas, avoiding places with mosquitoes, and applying repellant as needed.”

To date, there have been no cases of Zika virus acquired in Hawaii. Since 2014, the department has identified six persons in the state who acquired their infection in another country. Physicians are required to report all suspected cases of Zika virus and more than 75 other reportable diseases in the state.

Physician reporting is crucial to conducting an effective disease surveillance program in Hawaii. “In this situation, an astute Hawaii physician recognized the possible role of Zika virus infection, immediately notified the Department of Health, and worked with us to confirm the suspected diagnosis,” said Dr. Park. “We rely on our exceptional medical community to be our eyes and ears in the field to control and prevent the spread of illness in Hawaii.”

The department sent a Medical Advisory to physicians statewide today as a reminder that while Zika virus is not endemic in the U.S., it can be acquired in a number of countries and travel history should always be considered.

Zika virus is spread to people through mosquito bites. The most common symptoms of Zika virus disease are fever, rash, joint pain, and conjunctivitis (red eyes). The illness is usually mild with symptoms lasting from several days to a week. Severe disease requiring hospitalization is uncommon.

There is no vaccine to prevent or medicine to treat Zika.

For more information on Zika virus go to http://www.cdc.gov/zika/ and for CDC travel
recommendations, go to http://wwwnc.cdc.gov/travel/notices.