Dengue fever and Zika emergency: Should you travel to Hawaii?


George D. Szigeti, president and CEO of the Hawaii Tourism Authority, issued the following statement in response to the emergency proclamation signed today by Hawaii Gov. David Ige.

“I want to emphasize to our visitor industry partners and to travelers planning a trip to Hawaii that nothing has changed from before. Today’s proclamation enables the State of Hawaii to take steps to prevent an emergency from occurring and does not mean a state of emergency exists.

Earlier on Friday Hawaii Governor David Ige signed an emergency proclamation Friday, as a preventive measure against mosquito borne illnesses that include dengue fever and Zika. This follows the recent decision by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to open its emergency operations center at Level 1 to prepare for and mitigate the Zika risk.

“There have been no locally acquired Zika cases in the U.S. or Hawai‘i, and we’d like to keep it that way. This is about getting in front of the situation across the state. I will be coordinating planning efforts with the Hawai‘i Emergency Management Agency, all county mayors and Civil Defense coordinators,” said Gov. Ige.

On Hawai‘i Island, dengue fever cases continue to be fewer and farther between. However, the battle is not over and state continues to focus resources to break the cycle of dengue fever infection and transmission.

The 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.

The Hawaii Tourism Authority chief added:

“There is no reason for travelers or business groups to cancel their travel plans to any of the Hawaiian Islands. No travel advisories have been issued for Hawaii by any health organization. We encourage travelers to have confidence in booking a trip to Hawaii and look forward to welcoming them with aloha.”