Dengue Fever and Transgender Bills

Brand New Dengue?

It’s been ten years since Maui’s last dengue fever outbreak. In that time, says Maui health officer Dr. Lorrin Pang, the disease has “exploded worldwide.” And it may be back on the Valley Isle, with five suspected cases in East Maui.

When we spoke earlier this week, Dr. Pang said none of the cases had been confirmed (and that, in fact, at least one possible case had been ruled out). But, he emphasized,“There is definitely a threat—this is something we need to stay on top of.”

Pang said eradication efforts are focused on areas with a lot of mosquitoes and a lot of tourists. “It’s spread mosquito-man, mosquito-man, so it’s essential to keep it contained,” he explained. “The Hana coast is really our Achilles’ heel.”

Pang encouraged homeowners to clear brush and standing water within 50 feet of their houses. And he said anyone experiencing symptoms—fever, headache, joint and muscle aches, rash, vomiting—should see a doctor right away. (He added that those can also be signs of an unrelated but potentially fatal bacterial infection called leptospirosis.)

Asked where people should turn for updates, Pang pointed to the state Department of Health. The DOH Web site does feature basic information about dengue, but as of this writing the most recent news concerned two cases on Oahu—posted March 24. Meaning that, in large part, we may be on our own.

Engendering Debate

Civil unions grabbed all the headlines, but another, no less controversial bill related to the LGBT community is still moving through the legislature. HB546, which would make it illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of “gender identity or expression,” has cleared both the House and Senate and is awaiting Gov. Abercrombie’s signature.

Gay and civil rights groups and major labor unions including the AFL-CIO and Hawaii Government Employees Association support the bill. But, naturally, it has detractors as well.

In testimony provided to the Senate Judiciary Committee, the Hawaii Family Forum (“family,” as ever, being code for “religious”) suggested the bill would undermine the ability of “Christian and other organizations with an opposing view…to act on their beliefs without facing stigma or punishment.”
Church groups played the victim with civil unions and lost. Apparently it’s still their favorite trick.

Ali‘i Chang (1942-2011)

George Bernard Shaw wrote that “the best place to seek God is in a garden,” words that would surely resonate with Maui’s Ali‘i Chang, who died last week at age 69.

Chang founded the Ali‘i Kula Lavender Farm, and for years his smiling visage greeted residents and visitors who flocked to the little slice of well-manicured paradise. Chang was raised on a farm on Oahu, and opened a tropical garden on Maui in 1976. He would later buy a plot of land in Kula, and eventually turn it into a thriving enterprise.

“His first love was always nurturing the land,” wrote Chang’s business partner, Lani Medina Weigert, in a tribute posted on the farm’s Web site. “He was a man with a lighthearted touch who was quick to laugh, with a childlike spirit.”

A memorial service is scheduled for July 9 at the Lavender Farm.