Hawaii confirms four cases of dengue fever

Four cases of dengue fever have been confirmed on the Hawaiian island of Oahu.

State health officials have announced that four people from one Pearl City, Hawaii, neighborhood became sick at the end of February and have since recovered from the disease. Three family members and one neighbor were infected, according to HawaiiNewsNow.com.

Approximately 70 people in the surrounding neighborhood have been notified and some have taken blood tests to determine whether or not the disease has spread.

"The reason we're concerned typically we get cases any time of year when someone comes back from Polynesia or Central America and they get exposed to dengue and they come home and get sick," Gary Gill, the Hawaii Health Department deputy director, said, according to HawaiiNewsNow.com. “In the case we have here, these are people that have not traveled, so it means someone that did travel brought the disease home and the exposure was here locally by local mosquitoes.”

Hawaii health officials are not expecting a widespread outbreak. The type of mosquito that carries dengue in Hawaii only travels about 100 yards and must first bite an infected person, then bite an uninfected person in order to further the disease. Physicians in Oahu, however, have been made aware about the potential for more cases.

Because of budget cuts, the state’s vector control branch has been unable to take measures to prevent mosquitoes, HawaiiNewsNow.com reports. The department, which once employed dozens of workers, now only has five. It is unclear whether or not this contributed to the outbreak.

"Our ability to respond has been severely curtailed," Gill said, HawaiiNewsNow.com reports. "Vector control before the cuts used to go out into communities after wet weather where there was standing water and mosquitoes or other vectors and we would treat that in anticipation of it being a problem area. We don't do that anymore.  We don't have the staff to go out and treat prospectively anticipating a problem and avoiding a problem."

The state remains unsure as to how dengue was transmitted to Oahu.