Hawaii is currently seeing a locally-acquired outbreak of Dengue fever. Hawaii hasn’t seen a case of Dengue fever since 2011 when four people were infected on Oahu, also with a locally-acquired strain. Dengue fever is not native to Hawaii but it intermittently imported to Hawaii via infected travelers from endemic areas, which is what happened in 2011 and the previous outbreak in 2001.
Dengue fever is a viral illness spread by certain species of mosquitoes. Hawaii has the types of mosquitoes that can transmit Dengue so once an infected traveler arrives a mosquito just needs to bite that person, pick up the virus in the blood, and then bite someone else to transmit the virus. The mosquitoes that can transmit Dengue are quite widespread throughout the world.
The current outbreak is occurring on the Big Island and is up to 107 confirmed cases as of November 27. Of the confirmed cases 93 are locals and 14 are tourists. To combat the two species of Aedes mosquitoes (Aedes aeqypti and Aedes albopictus) that are transmitting the Dengue fever, Hawaiian Department of Health officials plan to start a targeted vector control program in the areas where cases have been confirmed.
The CDC recommends that travelers not cancel their Hawaii travel plans due to the current Dengue fever outbreak. While this outbreak may seem large to many people, especially in an area where Dengue fever is not endemic, the number of cases is not as large as is commonly found in many other tropical vacation destinations. The recommendations to prevent Dengue fever are the same as preventing any mosquito bite: wear long sleeves and pants, use mosquito repellent, avoid spending lots of time in areas where there are mosquitoes.