Dengue on the Big Island 2015: a Worrisome Reporting Change

Dengue in humans is a brief but painful experience, with symptoms that are usually worse, but much less in duration than more common viral infections such as the common cold or influenza. Most symptoms of dengue last 1 to 8 days.

There have been over 150 cases of dengue on Hawai'i Island since September 2015, and this week the health department said it plans to change its reporting from incidence (the cases this year) to prevalence (the number of people with active infection, currently just 5).

This probably seemed like a good way to de-emphasize the risk to the usual influx of tourists this season, and indeed the chance of any one tourist getting dengue on the Big Island is well under one in a thousand. But the very fact that the local dengue statistics are being converted to prevalence worries me.

Prevalence is how we measure endemic (persistent in a region) illnesses. Let's hope that does not happen. Dengue must not become endemic here.

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