Dengue Fever - big island sunset

Avoiding Dengue Fever in Hawaii

The outbreak of Dengue fever in Hawaii is very real. Yesterday Hawaii Island declared a state of emergency with a known 250 confirmed cases in the past four months, making this the largest outbreak in 70 years. The Hawaii Department of Health indicated that those infected have included 227 Hawaii Island residents and 24 visitors. While not endemic to Hawaii Dengue fever is a virus transmitted by infected mosquitoes that was imported by infected travelers.

Things to know about Dengue Fever in Hawaii

  • The outbreak of Dengue is limited primarily to the Kona side of the Big Island. (See map). Only the Big Island is impacted.
  • With proper protection there is no reason to avoid travel to the Big Island.
  • Symptoms of Dengue are a rapid onset fever, as well as sever, headache, joint and eye pain, plus rashes. Symptoms are normally self-resolving in one to two weeks. On the other hand it can rarely develop into deadly dengue hemorrhagic fever.
  • Hawaii Dengue MapWhile we await completion of a dengue fever vaccine (six are in various states of development), prevention is today’s only remedy available. That may be true for several years.
  • And that gets down to avoiding mosquito bites.

How to Avoid Mosquito Bites That Can Cause Dengue Fever

  • Use caution when mosquitos are most prevalent. That is before sunset or right after sunrise and at all times where shade or fresh water prevail.
  • Only stay in well screened or air conditioned accommodations when visiting.
  • Consider spraying the room either naturally or chemically, then leaving for some time if you suspect mosquitoes.
  • Wear clothing that is protective. That includes long pants, socks and long sleeve shirt. Occasionally (though we’ve not seen this) bites can occur through clothing. You can treat clothes with repellent for added protection.
  • Use a mosquito repellent. Either natural containing oil of eucalyptus or not containing picaridin or DEET. Bring your own repellent with you to Hawaii in case of a shortage of your preferred type. When using both sunscreen and mosquito repellent, apply repellent last.
  • The CDC recommends repellents containing DEET (Off!, Cutter, Sawyer, and Ultrathon), Picaridin (Cutter Advanced, Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus), Oil of lemon eucalyptus (OLE) or PMD (Repel and Off! Botanicals) and IR3535 (Skin So Soft Bug Guard Plus Expedition and SkinSmart).

Shout out to Beat of Hawaii reader Gary C. for asking us to report on Dengue Fever in Hawaii. Beat of Hawaii photo taken at Kona on the Big Island. 

20 thoughts on “Avoiding Dengue Fever in Hawaii”

  1. I’m so bummed this is going on. I had booked a whole week in Kona in May but I just cancelled it because I’m not taking my mother there when this epidemic is going on. Why take the chance especially when people who have had it said it was traumatic? I’m choosing to wait this out until it’s contained. This year will have to be a non- Hawaiian vacation. Bummer.

  2. Hello,

    We are going to Maui and Oahu in a few months with my whole family. What is the state of Hawaii doing to prevent this from spreading to other neighboring islands?

    Thank you

  3. The virus is, unfortunately, not confined to Kona. We now have outbreaks even on our local street in Hilo. (A contractor neighbor is being impacted, who may have carried it in accidentially from Kona.) The map shown only contains the officially reported cases, which are the tip of the iceberg.

  4. We are flying into Kona at the end of March and then staying at the Hilton Waikoloa Village. Will we even be allowed to fly into Kona?

  5. Dengue is not limited to only the Kona districts – just look at the map! All those yellow areas have dengue too, and Waipio is closed due to dengue. This article needs revision if you really want to help people.

  6. My husband and another couple are arriving on Feb. 20 till the 27th staying at Wyndham Kona Hawaiian Resort at Ali’l Drive Kailua-Kona is it safe to go? Pls advise. Thanks!

    1. Hi Marissa,

      There are simple precautions to take and you can certainly talk with the resort about it. You should be totally fine. Just use good sense and basic prophylaxis.


  7. I think it shoukd be taken seriously by all – especially those who live there. We recently spent a week in a privately owned condo in Kona. All our previous visits to the Big Island were spent in North Kohala or the up country. This was our first visit to the Kona area. I was anxious.

    I specifically asked the condo owner if he had a problem with mosquitoes. He assured us that in the 13 years he had lived there he had never had a problem. He said he lived there with his doors open and never had a bite. This had to have been a lie.

    The first evening of our visit my husband was bitten three times while preparing dinner. The condo had an outdoor kitchen. So we were unable to utilize the kitchen facilities which were one of the main reasons we rented the condo.

    This condo owner had an automatic sprinkler system that watered his grass, bushes, AND mosquitoes every other day! How ridiculous to do something like this when there is a dengue fever problem in your backyard!

    Needless to say, we spent an anxious week or two until we knew that neither of us would end up with dengue fever.

    I personally feel that everyone should take this problem seriously and no one, including a greedy condo owner who wants to rent his property, should downplay the seriousness of mosquitoes and their bites.

    My personal recommendation: take the problem seriously. Take precautions. Enjoy the Big Island – but rent a condo with an INDOOR kitchen! We feel this condo owner downplayed his mosquito problem in order not to jeopardize his rental. Instead, he jeppardized the health of unsuspecting visitors who trusted him to be honest. At the very least, he should have been totally honest, and provided mosquito repellent and bug spray and cut back on his stupid watering schedule until this problem is brought under control.

    I am afraid that mosquito borne illness is the new plague of modern life. We will have to learn to live with it.

  8. Aloha,
    We are seniors currently staying in Waikoloa and are receiving another couple of seniors in a weeks time. Should we tell them to stay home and/or should we leave now and return to Canada?

    1. Hi Brian,

      We certainly aren’t suggesting you or your friends stay away from the Big Island and that was made clear in the introduction. There are simple precautions to take especially at dusk.

    2. We just spent a week in Waikoloa January 2016. We saw ONE mosquitoes there the entire week we were staying at Waikoloa Beach. It was inside our condo and we managed to kill it. We also spent a full week at Waikoloa Village – upcountry and saw zero mosquitoes. We spent a week in Kona and DID see mosquitoes and also were bitten :0(

      So, there ‘could’ be mosquitoes. Did we see clouds of them at Waikoloa? NO! So, just be careful. Be watchful. Use common sense and you should have a wonderful and uneventful vacation.

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