WASHINGTON D.C. – Congresswoman Tulsi Gabbard brought the story of Hawaii Island’s struggle against an outbreak of dengue fever to the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday.
Speaking in support of President Obama’s emergency request for $1.8 billion to prepare and respond to the Zika virus, Gabbard also called for federal funding to fight dengue fever in Hawaiʻi.
Since September 2015, there have been 252 confirmed cases of dengue fever on Hawaii Island. Last week, Mayor Billy Kenoi proclaimed a state of emergency for the county.
Zika and dengue are both spread by the same type of mosquitoes, the aedes albopictus and aedes aegypti. Both types are found in Hawaii, although presently only dengue fever has been passed to mosquitoes on the Big Island.
Rep. Gabbard recently called on Hawaii Governor David Ige to declare the dengue outbreak “a state of emergency and to deploy State resources, including the National Guard, to assist with mosquito abatement, public information, clearing of mosquito breeding areas, and providing completely free and accessible testing for those with suspected symptoms.”
Full text of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard’s remarks on the House floor:
Mr. Speaker, I rise today to strongly urge my colleagues to support the President’s emergency request of $1.8 billion to fight the spread of the Zika virus, a dangerous mosquito-borne illness that has surfaced in my home state of Hawaiʻi and in at least 12 other states across the country.
The symptoms and effects of the Zika virus, which have prompted an international public health emergency from the World Health Organization, are not dissimilar to another mosquito borne disease—dengue fever. Dengue fever is spread through the very same Aedes aegypti mosquito as carries the Zika virus, as well as other mosquito variations, and like the Zika virus, the dengue fever symptoms include fevers, rashes, joint and muscle pains, severe headaches, and other painful symptoms. Now, the CDC has reported the harmful symptoms and effects of both Zika and dengue, and the ability of both of these diseases to spread very rapidly through mosquitoes present in many regions of the United States, including in my home district.
So far there have been around 50 cases of Zika virus confirmed in the United States, but in the past 16 weeks there have been 252 known cases of dengue fever on Hawaiʻi Island alone. Now, Mayor Billy Kenoi, Hawaiʻi County’s Mayor, on Monday, announced a state of emergency for the county to deploy more resources to battle this dengue fever outbreak. I have asked our governor to declare a state of emergency in response to this outbreak so that the people of Hawaiʻi can receive every resource available to protect themselves, to eradicate this mosquito and its breeding grounds, and to stop the spread of dengue fever, which has quickly become the largest outbreak in the State of Hawaiʻi since the 1940’s.
The CDC has activated its emergency operations center to “Level 1” status. Now, to put this Level 1 status in context, the CDC has only raised the emergency level to Level 1 three times in the past—during the Ebola outbreak in 2014, during the H1N1 pandemic in 2009, and after Hurricane Katrina in 2005.
The President’s leadership and emergency request on this urgent issue is warranted and necessary to respond aggressively to the Zika virus early on. He’s treating this with the seriousness it deserves, recognizing this global public health threat, the impacts and long lasting effects of which still are not fully known.
At the end of last year, Congress came together and passed a bipartisan omnibus spending bill that increased funding for public health preparedness and response by more than $52 million than the previous fiscal year. But this additional emergency funding request is necessary now in communities, like mine on Hawaiʻi Island and in different parts of the country, to combat these disease transmitting mosquito viruses like Zika and dengue fever.
It’s imperative that Congress, federal agencies, local governments, and private sector partners, partner together to take action now to deal with the outbreaks we already have and prevent something far worse from occurring. I look forward to working with my colleagues to push this critical public health funding forward.