Hawaii health officials said Monday that 157 people have now been infected with the mosquito-borne disease in an outbreak spreading across the Big Island.
Hawaii health officials confirmed four more cases of dengue fever on Wednesday, bringing the total number of people infected in the outbreak to 157.
The state Department of Health said Wednesday that 140 of those infected with the mosquito-borne disease were residents, and 17 were tourists. Most of the cases involved adults, while 34 children were also infected.
Officials said 150 of those who had contracted the disease are completely recovered and no longer infectious to mosquitoes.
The dengue fever cases date back to mid-September. Officials said most of the people have been infected on the Big Island in South Kona, especially Hookena
and Honaunau, but that the whole island is at risk.
On Nov. 14, health officials said they sprayed an insecticide called Aqua Reslin that targets adult mosquitos around schools in the Kona and Hilo.
Another case of dengue fever has been confirmed on Oahu, but officials said the strain is not related to the cases on the Big Island.
Not everyone who has dengue fever shows symptoms, but those who do usually do within a week after transmission. They may include fever, joint pain, headaches, and rash.
This is the first outbreak in the Hawaiian Islands since 2011, when four people were infected on Oahu with a local strain of dengue fever. In 2001, an outbreak in Hawaii infected 153 people, predominately in East Maui.
Dengue is not normally present in Hawaii and occurs mainly in Asia, Africa, the Caribbean, and the South Pacific. It was likely transmitted via travelers coming through the islands, as happened in Hawaii in 2001 and 2011.
An official with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said Nov. that visitors to the islands should not cancel plans.
“This isn’t a huge outbreak compared to elsewhere,” said Dr. Lyle Petersen, director of the CDC’s Division of Vector-Borne Diseases, on Nov. 20.
In comparison, Peterson said as many as 400 million people are infected yearly around the world. He said in Puerto Rico, where the disease is endemic, that 95% of the population has been infected at some point.
Health officials recommend that visitors and residents use mosquito repellent while outside, wear long-sleeved clothing and long pants, and avoid the outdoors during prime mosquito times that includes dawn and dusk.
Allie Wesenberg, who has 1.5 million subscribers to her and her boyfriend’s YouTube channel, visited Hawaii in October and reportedly came down with the illness after returning home to Florida.
On YouTube, Wesenberg shared the story of her infection, describing the painful experience.
“Started to see all these crazy side effects,” Wesenberg said. “My body started to ache… My bones hurt, it was awful… I genuinely thought I was going to die.”
The couple said Wesenberg spent six days in the hospital before she was released.