Anti-dengue efforts stepped up as cases could hit 30,000

A banner showing the number of dengue cases at hot spots in Tampines Avenue 4.
A banner showing the number of dengue cases at hot spots in Tampines Avenue 4. ST PHOTO: KUA CHEE SIONG

A perfect storm of factors threatens to push dengue cases here to a high of over 30,000 this year, but the authorities are not standing by idly.

The National Environment Agency (NEA), Ministry of Health (MOH) and People's Association (PA) aim to intensify inspections and education efforts.

This year, the Mozzie Wipeout Campaign, which had been held in April or later in other years, will be held at the end of this month instead. It teaches residents to prevent mosquito breeding in their homes.

 

Over 5,000 PA volunteers will conduct house visits and educate residents on preventing breeding.

Another 20,000 Gravitraps - placed in common spaces to trap mosquitoes - will also be rolled out by June to 3,000 Housing Board blocks currently without them.

The NEA warned yesterday that Singapore might have its worst dengue outbreak this year, exceeding the record 22,170 cases in 2013, as a result of warmer temperatures due to the El Nino phenomenon and a switch in the predominant virus serotype to DEN-2 from DEN-1.

It has observed a 50 per cent increase in the number of mosquitos caught in its Gravitraps last month, compared with the figure in January last year. The number of breeding sites found in homes over the same period has also risen by 50 per cent.

This year, two have died of dengue fever and more than 3,370 have been infected with the virus.

The El Nino phenomenon promotes faster breeding and shorter incubation times for the dengue virus, while a switch in predominant virus serotype is historically followed by a spike in dengue cases due to lower immunity to the virus strain.

The NEA said it will continue to step up inspections islandwide, focusing on areas found to have higher incidence of mosquito breeding.

As of Jan 31 this year, the NEA has conducted more than 126,000 inspections, uncovering over 1,900 cases of mosquito breeding.

Of these, more than 600 inspections of construction sites were done, with 12 per cent found to have mosquito breeding. Over 10 notices to attend court and stop-work orders were issued.

The NEA will also increase manpower by hiring temporary officers.

Outreach efforts will also be intensified through advertisements, posters at bus stops and distribution of pamphlets on dengue to residents.

Yesterday, the MOH said that, given the Zika virus, it is even more critical to wipe out mosquito breeding. The virus is not fatal but is linked to babies being born with small heads.

The MOH said it is working to expand Zika virus testing capabilities to public hospital laboratories, and has set up a clinical advisory group to ensure doctors can give advice on the virus.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 19, 2016, with the headline 'Anti-dengue efforts stepped up as cases could hit 30,000'. Print Edition | Subscribe