HONOLULU – State lawmakers have agreed to a large increase in budget funding for vector control staffing in Hawaii, driven by concerns over mosquito-borne diseases like dengue fever and Zika.
Today, State House and Senate conferees working on the state budget announced they have agreed to provide $1,270,120 to bolster the state Department of Health Vector Control Branch. The branch focuses on controlling populations of animals and insects that spread disease.
Mosquitoes were responsible for Hawaii Island’s recent outbreak of dengue fever, which infected at least 263 people between September 2015 and March 2016. The Zika virus is also spread by the same mosquitoes.
A media release stated that conferees want to ensure that the state is prepared to adequately short circuit, monitor and respond to any future outbreaks.
“This funding will help re-establish the vector control branch, which has been reduced over the past few years by furloughs and budget cuts,” said Sylvia Luke, chairperson of the House Finance Committee. “In making these appropriations, the department will be able to add 20 new positions to monitor populations of vectors such as mosquitoes and rats, and to respond appropriately when a threat arises.”
“Infectious disease has been and will continue to be one of our key challenges in a world made smaller and more connected with modern day air travel,” said Jill Tokuda, chairperson of the Senate Ways and Means Committee. “The state’s recent slow response to the dengue fever outbreak on the Big Island was a wake-up call for all us. We must be more vigilant in anticipating and responding to such outbreaks spread by mosquitoes and other vectors.”
Before the Big Island’s dengue fever outbreak, the state had 25 vector control positions. 8 were vacant. Once the added 20 new positions are filled, the state says there will be a total of 45 people in vector control.
Negotiations continue on the final version of the state budget bill, HB1700. Lawmakers have until an April 29 deadline for all fiscal bills to pass out of conference committee.