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Hawaii mayor declares state of emergency to address dengue fever outbreak

Zika virus is an illness transmitted to people through bites from mosquitoes of the Aedes species -- the same mosquitoes that spread dengue and chikungunya viruses.

CBS News

HILO, BIG ISLAND -- Hawaii County Mayor Billy Kenoi has declared a state of emergency to deal with the growing dengue fever outbreak in the state, reports CBS affiliate KGMB.

In a declaration issued on Monday, the mayor said the state of emergency is needed to reduce mosquito populations, increased outreach and protecting people from mosquito bites.

"A state of emergency for Hawaii County is authorized in order to prevent the continued spread of this outbreak and to eliminate the dengue fever virus from Hawaii Island," Kenoi wrote.

As of Monday, the state Health Department has confirmed 251 cases of dengue fever on Hawaii Island. Two of the cases are still potentially infectious, reports KGMB.

The governor is expected to follow Kenoi's declaration with a statewide declaration, KGMB reports.

"The decision to issue an emergency proclamation is one made by professionals," Gov. David Ige said, in a news conference last week. "There is a continuous conversation about it, as we proceed through an event and identify a course of action."

A state of emergency will add resources to the fight against dengue fever.

The state's stretched resources have been put under further scrutiny in recent days, as fears over the Zika virus grows.

There have been no local cases of Zika virus in Hawaii, but public health officials are concerned the virus could make its way to the islands.

Zika virus is an illness transmitted to people through bites from mosquitoes of the Aedes species -- the same mosquitoes that spread dengue and chikungunya viruses. It not communicable from person to person but can be transmitted when a mosquito bites someone who's infected and then bites someone else.

Babies with microcephaly, an unusually small head and developmental delays, is a birth defect linked to the Zika outbreak.

The World Health Organization has declared the Zika virus -- and its possible link to severe birth defects -- an international public health emergency.