230 infected by chikungunya so far this year

Victims mainly in Sungei Kadut and along Bukit Timah Road

Dr Dixie Chua, 73, got worried when her bones started to ache, followed by stiff joints, making movement difficult.

At first, she thought she had been doing too much gardening, as she had been pruning and the pain started in her right hand. Then her other arm started aching, followed by her legs.

The former clinical biochemist, who is now retired, went to the polyclinic, where the doctor - suspecting she had dengue - gave her painkillers and told her to return in three days if a rash appeared.

But she went to the Singapore General Hospital instead, and was diagnosed with chikungunya and warded for three days.

The doctor there told her that several people living near her home at Lotus Avenue, off Bukit Timah Road, had been diagnosed with chikungunya.

In the last week of May alone, 15 people living in Bukit Timah were diagnosed with this mosquito-borne disease. In the same period, 13 people in the Kranji-Sungei Kadut area were also found to be suffering from chikungunya, and the authorities are investigating three other cases.

People in two other areas have also been infected - three in the Ubi area and two from Dahan Road in Woodlands.

So far, infections reported this year are centred on the industrial area in Sungei Kadut and along Bukit Timah Road.

These people are among the 230 who have come down with this painful disease this year. Of them, 10 got the disease overseas. Of those infected here, 42 are locals and 178 foreigners.

In the past three years, there were only between 12 and 26 cases of chikungunya a year, of which three to six each year were contracted in Singapore.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) said it inspected 299 factories in the Kranji area and fined 164 for breeding mosquitoes. Similarly, it inspected 943 premises at Namly Crescent and Fifth Avenue and fined 36 homes. It checked six premises at Dahan Road and found four homes to be breeding mosquitoes.

Unlike dengue, the chikungunya virus is not found here. Outbreaks occur when someone returns after getting infected overseas, and is bitten by an Aedes mosquito while still infectious.

The mosquito spreads the disease when it bites others.

To prevent the virus from taking root, NEA tries to eliminate all mosquitoes in the vicinity of a chikungunya victim.

Both diseases have somewhat similar symptoms: fever, headache, fatigue, nausea, vomiting, muscle pain, rash and joint pain.

While dengue can kill, chikungunya victims can suffer pain for months after they "recover", but the disease is rarely fatal.

It has been three weeks since the pain started for Dr Chua. She said: "I still feel very tired, and occasionally, I still get a sharp pain in my arm or legs."

But this is already a far cry from the early days, when her legs were swollen, her face puffed up and she could not move her hands because of the pain. She had to wear a pair of sandals to go to the polyclinic as her swollen feet could not fit into her shoes. And walking was painful.

She now makes sure there are no mosquitoes breeding in her house.