The state of Hawaii is working to contain the spread of the Zika virus, after the first case was recently reported, causing a newborn to contract microcephaly.
“Hawaii is fortunate to have an experienced and capable public health laboratory that can serve our state with timely and quality testing under emergency conditions,” Health Director Virginia Pressler said. “That same capability is not available in many other areas of the Pacific, and providing lab support to these areas -- when we can -- is critical to controlling the spread of diseases and reducing the risk of introduction to Hawaii.”
The virus has recently spread across Latin America. The Hawaiian mother who was diagnosed with Zika was in Latin America while she was pregnant.
“With Zika emerging in U.S. island territories of American Samoa, Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, the nation is on alert,” Thane Hancock, team leader for the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) American Samoa Zika Response, said. “The timely response by the Hawaii Department of Health’s State Laboratories staff provided critical support for local disease investigations and for monitoring potentially exposed pregnant women.”
Hawaiian health officials are taking advantage of the new test developed by the Department of Health and the CDC.
“It’s always a balance to ensure our state needs are met first, but the staff here is more than willing to step up to support national efforts,” State Laboratories Director Christian Whelen said. “This work helps to better prepare us for potential issues that could arise in our state, and identifying and controlling outbreaks in the Pacific benefits all of us.”