Breeding spots found near dengue victim's home

Area classified as dengue cluster; MPs step up awareness campaigns

Singapore faced a wake-up call yesterday after its first dengue death this year as it was revealed how two breeding spots were found in the victim's neighbourhood in early April.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) also told The Straits Times how it issued warning letters to the owners of two flats where the mosquitoes were discovered in Hougang Avenue 1 on April 4 and 11.

On Wednesday, it classified the area as a "dengue cluster" - where two or more infection cases occur within 14 days, less than 150m apart.

This was also the day 20-year-old Mr Ang Yong Han died.

MPs stepped up awareness campaigns yesterday as family and friends said goodbye to Mr Ang.

More than 30 mourners attended the avid pool player's emotional funeral held at a void deck in Hougang Avenue 1 yesterday, where his 45-year-old mother Yap Geok Kuan sobbed: "Don't go, Ah Han, don't go."

She and Mr Ang's father Ang Lai Heng, 58, could not bear to attend his cremation, with the latter explaining in Mandarin: "The 'white-haired' shouldn't send the 'black-haired' off. Besides, nothing we do can bring my son back."

He added that his son, who was a "good, even-tempered boy", spent his final days in pain and did not get to say goodbye to his parents.

Mr Ang's infection was one of four reported in that part of Hougang, the NEA said yesterday. It added that the two indoor breeding spots were found in blocks 108 and 106. Mr Ang lived nearby in Block 103.

On Thursday, NEA officers inspected homes and outdoor areas in the Hougang cluster for breeding spots and conducted fogging to destroy adult mosquitoes in the area. These operations are ongoing and 25 officers have been deployed, the NEA said.

When The Straits Times visited Hougang yesterday, residents said they were taking steps to prevent themselves and their families from getting infected.

"I am not worried; it could be just an isolated case. But I'll still take precautions anyway," said 55-year-old carpenter Khong Yeon Leong, who is placing his unused pots and pans upside down to stop water from pooling.

Housewife Chew Lian Bee, 55, was more concerned. She said: "I am very worried now, especially because I have three children in the house. Before they go out, I always stick anti-mosquito patches on them."

Residents in hot spots taking more precautions

Residents in other hot spots such as Tampines, Yishun and Lakeside also said they are taking more precautions.

"My husband had dengue before and had to stay in hospital... That's why I'm especially scared for myself and my daughter," said Mrs Long Dong Xia, a 35-year-old housewife who lives in Yishun. "I try to ensure there's no stagnant water around."

Teacher and Tampines resident Grace Chew, 33, said: "I spray myself and the kids with repellent... But we don't change our daily schedules because of the situation."

Staff at the Guardian pharmacy in Lakeside MRT station said mosquito sprays and patches have been selling fast in recent weeks and have had to be restocked every day.

Mr Ang Wei Neng, an MP for Jurong GRC, said grassroots members will intensify the number of house visits, during which they give out NEA brochures on how to prevent dengue. He added: "We will continue what we're doing, but we will also give out newspaper cuttings of the death to instill some sense of urgency."

Mr Chen Show Mao, an MP for Aljunied GRC, visited Mr Ang Yong Han's wake on Wednesday night. Hougang Avenue 1 falls under his ward.

Mr Baey Yam Keng, an MP for Tampines GRC, said residents will be roped in to look out for potential breeding spots that the authorities might miss, like empty houses or homes of neighbours who may be hoarding items.

"The fatality was very unfortunate," he said. "It's a stark reminder that dengue can be fatal and that people should seek treatment as early as possible once they detect symptoms."

Additional reporting by Eugene Chua, Joanna Lee and Lim Min Zhang