Column: Hawaii Needs To Be Ready For The Next Pandemic

Anyone who has seen the Honolulu Star-Advertiser not too long ago has learn concerning the controversy over short-term rental rules. Of course, it’s an enormous deal as a result of tourism is so very important to our livelihoods.

What if tourism simply abruptly dried up?

"Mosquito Cemetery"It might simply occur. We skilled it throughout 9/11, however there are different potential disagreeable situations. Back in Christmas 2014, my co-writer Rob Kay headed off to Tahiti to go to pals. He was warned that French Polynesia was within the grip of a chikungunya outbreak and that he ought to deliver loads of mosquito repellent.

Chikungunya is a mosquito-borne viral illness with signs comparable to fever and extreme joint ache. The native inhabitants suffered, however the contagion didn’t inordinately have an effect on Tahiti’s tourism economic system. (Tahiti solely will get about 200,000 guests a yr.)

If Hawaii had been stricken with the same state of affairs, it could be a unique matter. Our vacationer business would fold in a single day – to not point out the affect on native individuals. So, what’s the chance that our state may succumb to an outbreak of infectious illness?

To reply that we consulted with Dr. Duane Gubler, one of many prime infectious illness researchers within the nation and somebody who is aware of Hawaii effectively. Formerly chief of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention Dengue Branch and director of the Division of Vector-Borne Infectious Diseases, he’s at present with Duke University-National University of Singapore Graduate Medical School. Prior to that, he was professor and chairman, Department of Tropical Medicine at John A. Burns School of Medicine.

Question: Dr. Gubler, is Hawaii weak to an infectious illness outbreak?

Answer: Yes, Hawaii is the gateway to the U.S. from the Asia-Pacific area, the place many newly rising infectious ailments originate. With vacationers stopping in Hawaii on their strategy to or from the U.S., the unprecedented financial and concrete development in Asia makes that area a really high-risk space for the emergence and unfold of unique infectious ailments. In truth, the dengue virus that precipitated the small outbreak of dengue fever in 2001 was launched from Tahiti.

Q: We haven’t had any main outbreaks of dengue fever or chikungunya as in different Pacific islands comparable to Tahiti or Fiji. Have we simply been fortunate?

A: Hawaii may be very fortunate as a result of the principal mosquito vector of dengue, chikungunya and Zika viruses (Aedes aegypti) is barely discovered on the Big Island, and even there has solely a really restricted distribution. So, Hawaii is at low threat for these ailments. (Hawaii does have a species often called Aedes albopictus, which might transmit these viruses, however is an inefficient epidemic vector.) That mentioned, the state of Hawaii should be vigilant. Hawaii is at excessive threat for epidemics of different infectious ailments which will emerge in Asia.

Q: What could be executed to mitigate our vulnerabilities to an infectious illness outbreak?

A: With the intensive jet airplane journey to Hawaii, it’s close to unimaginable to forestall their introduction. The greatest different is to develop a great public well being infrastructure, i.e., good laboratory-based surveillance for imported pathogens, emergency response plans in place, good vector management and ample medical services for remedy in addition to containment.

Q: Do rising world temperatures put Hawaii at better threat?

A: The reply to this query will not be a easy sure or no. In one respect Hawaii already has the perfect temperatures for transmission of many infectious ailments. As as to whether rising world temperatures, say in Asia, could generate extra illness which might affect Hawaii, I’d say it’s unsure however unlikely. Rising temperatures are solely one in all many elements which will affect illness incidence in Asia. Many ailments are local weather delicate, however transmission dynamics are very complicated. Environmental elements (temperature, rainfall, humidity, and many others.), urbanization (human density, herd immunity, housing sort, human conduct, human rural to city migration, water, sewage and waste administration programs, and many others.), mosquito species, mosquito conduct, pathogen pressure, and many others., should all be thought of and could also be extra vital than temperature.

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