IN THE NEWS: Dengue fever fears plague Big Island high school where windows have no screens

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Dengue fever fears plague Big Island high school where windows have no screens

by Jim Mendoza

KEALAKEHE, HAWAII (HawaiiNewsNow) -

Classrooms on Kealakehe High School’s campus have louvered windows with no screens.  They are open doors for bugs.  Teacher Derek Monell said rooms are swarming with mosquitoes.

“You have mosquitoes on your ankles, on your arms most classes throughout the day. We’re swatting them, killing them, getting bit,” he said.

“Students dress out in shorts and tee shirts so they are exposed to mosquitoes constantly,” PE teacher Gloria Ilagan said.

The teachers now worry about dengue fever.

Principal Wilfred Murakami said the school uses foggers, sprays and mosquito pellets to combat the mosquito problem.

“Interiors and exteriors are being treated,” he said. “We are very vigilant about making sure that we have a safe environment for our students.”

But mosquitoes keep coming.

“From the moment I walk in to the moment I leave I’m usually swatting mosquitoes away from myself and the kids are doing the same.” Monell said.

Teachers complain the grass isn’t cut frequently enough and when it is custodians let cuttings and debris clog drains and create standing water.

“I would say that is inaccurate. As far as them preventing standing water from draining, we don’t have that problem here,” Murakami said.

Kealakehe High School is in North Kona. Initial dengue cases were in South Kona. Department of Health’s Dr. Sarah Park said distance isn’t a barrier. 

“Flight range of these mosquitoes is maybe about 200 yards, so it’s really infected people that bring it to the community,” she said.

Murakami said the school can’t afford to install window screens right away.

“For them to fabricate and put them in place it would be a large project,” he said.

He’s advising students and staff to wear long pants and shoes to minimize mosquito bites.