September 16, 2003
HONOLULU – The Hawai`i State Department of Health (DOH) and
the Hawai`i State Department of Agriculture (DOA) have launched a joint
West Nile Virus (WNV) educational campaign. Cases of WNV persist on the
mainland where there are currently 37 states reporting human cases of
WNV. DOH and DOA continue to solicit the help of the public in an
effort to prevent the introduction of WNV to the state of Hawai`i. To
date, WNV has not been detected in Hawai`i.
A new WNV informational brochure was developed to continue to
educate the public about WNV prevention. The brochure was recently
distributed statewide to pet stores, veterinarians, bird clubs and
State health offices and can be viewed on the DOH website at
www.hawaii.gov/doh. The brochure includes information on eliminating
mosquitoes that transmit the disease, and instructions for dead bird
collection, which is critical to surveillance efforts detecting whether
WNV has entered the state.
"We are fortunate to be among a few states in the nation that has
not yet had an encounter with West Nile Virus. We must remain vigilant
and take special measures to control the spread of WNV. Certainly, we
have the opportunity to truly prevent this harmful virus from entering
our environment," said State Health Director Chiyome L. Fukino,
The public is urged to continue their mosquito control efforts
because humans get WNV from mosquito bites. A mosquito that’s
bitten an infected bird can infect humans, but WNV is not
contagious and cannot be passed from person to person. Residents are
asked to continue to eliminate standing water where mosquitoes breed.
This is a good overall public health measure, as many other diseases
are transmitted by mosquitoes, including dengue fever.
Hawai‘i’s geographic isolation provides a natural
barrier but the disease may be carried by migratory birds. Detecting
WNV in birds is a clear and early indicator that the disease has
entered the state.
"To help prevent the introduction of WNV into the state, the
Hawai‘i Department of Agriculture has established administrative
rules for importing birds that require two import permits, inspections
upon entry and in some cases, pre-shipment quarantine procedures," said
Sandra Lee Kunimoto, Chairperson of the Hawaii Board of Agriculture.
"In addition, an embargo preventing the mailing of birds through the
U.S. Postal Service remains in effect."
For information on import requirements for birds, please call HDOA's
Import & Compliance Section at Honolulu International Airport at
In humans, the disease creates flu-like symptoms in about 20% of
people infected, and less than 1% of infected will have a severe and
sometimes fatal illness known as West Nile encephalitis (an
inflammation of the brain). This year so far, there have been more than
3,300 reported cases of WNV, and nearly 70 WNV-related fatalities in
the U.S. Last year, in 2002, there were 4,156 reported cases of WNV
human infection, and 284 WNV-related fatalities with the virus reaching
For more information on the West Nile virus, visit the Hawai`i State
Department of Health web site at www.state.hi.us/doh/wnv.
For more information, please contact:
Su Shin, Joan Bennet & Associates
Phone: (808) 531-6087 ext. 5
Cell Phone: (808) 228-2997