Gov. Ige signed a supplemental proclamation Tuesday afternoon to extend the state’s emergency period for mosquito borne illnesses, such as dengue fever, zika virus and chikungunya.
While these diseases continue to spread in multiple regions around the world, the Hawai‘i State Department of Health has been working diligently with its partners in the counties and other state agencies, such as the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency, to protect Hawai‘i as warm summer months and the state’s peak travel season quickly approach.
“We are grateful to Governor Ige for taking proactive measures to ensure that our counterparts in the counties and at the Department of Health are able to utilize the resources they need to prevent another outbreak of mosquito borne diseases in Hawai‘i,” Administrator of Emergency Management Vern Miyagi said. “It is critical that we all do our part, both residents and visitors, to take personal precautions to prevent mosquito bites and the spread of these illnesses.”
The emergency proclamation gives 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, and allows coordination with other states and territories for mutual aid under the Emergency Management Assistance Compact. The proclamation is also a requirement prior to requesting and receiving federal assistance should the state exhaust its resources.
The first emergency proclamation was signed by Gov. Ige earlier this year in response to both an emergency declaration from the County of Hawai‘i for its islandwide dengue fever outbreak and a decision by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to open its emergency operations center at Level 1 to prepare for and mitigate the zika risk.
“We have continued to assess and monitor mosquito activity on Hawaii Island since the dengue outbreak is not over yet,” Health Director Dr. Virginia Pressler said. “We have also been responding to multiple imported cases of dengue fever, zika, and chikungunya across the state. Each time a travel-related case is discovered, we take steps to investigate the case and ensure that they understand proper precautions to take during the infectious period to prevent the disease from spreading.”
Prior to the first proclamation, the state released DOH from a 5 percent budget restriction ($250,000) to fund costs incurred while responding to the onset of the dengue outbreak. During the first emergency period, the state released DOH another 5 percent restriction ($250,000) to fund eight Vector Control positions, one entomologist and one communications position.
All eight Vector Control positions created have been filled. Six of the eight positions have already started work, and two of them will begin soon. The state also purchased a supply of equipment to update and replenish the stock needed to support these positions in their efforts. The entomologist position was filled immediately to advise Vector Control on their strategy for mosquito monitoring and abatement. The position created to support the Communications Office has also been filled and will be undertaking a statewide public education campaign to launch this year.
During the next 60 days under the extended emergency proclamation, HI-EMA and DOH, with input from county partners, will continue ongoing efforts to develop a comprehensive response plan that will detail appropriate actions and measures dependent on the state’s current risk associated with mosquito borne diseases. A statewide public awareness and education campaign will kick off this year to ensure that people understand the risks of mosquito borne diseases and how to best prevent these illnesses in Hawai‘i.