Early start for drive to wipe out mozzies

Homes are the main breeding ground for mosquitoes, said Senior Minister of State Amy Khor, who gave out mosquito repellents and fliers on dengue, together with Mandarin oranges, to her constituents in Bukit Batok during her Chinese New Year visits on
Homes are the main breeding ground for mosquitoes, said Senior Minister of State Amy Khor, who gave out mosquito repellents and fliers on dengue, together with Mandarin oranges, to her constituents in Bukit Batok during her Chinese New Year visits on Wednesday. PHOTO: COURTESY OF DR AMY KHOR

Record number of dengue cases in first few weeks of the year; population of mosquitoes has also spiked

The fight against mosquitoes will move into high gear from the end of the month, with the record number of dengue infections so far this year spurring the authorities into action earlier than usual.

The population of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, the main carrier for dengue, has increased significantly since November, said Dr Amy Khor, Senior Minister of State for the Environment and Water Resources, and Health.

A cause for concern is that the number of homes found to be breeding mosquitoes in the first few weeks of this year has been 50 per cent higher than it was last year.

Thus the mayors from the five districts will all be out on Feb 28 to launch the Mozzie Wipeout campaign in their districts. This is a campaign that had previously been kicked off in April or later, ahead of the usual mid-year peak in dengue infections. The aim is to increase vigilance against mosquito breeding.

Dr Khor told The Straits Times that homes are the main breeding ground for mosquitoes, accounting for 60 per cent of all breeding found during inspections, so it is important that home owners be on their guard.

Dr Khor herself was distributing mosquito repellents and fliers on dengue, together with Mandarin oranges, during her Chinese New Year visits to her constituents in Bukit Batok on Wednesday.

"They must remember that dengue kills and two people have already died in the first month and a half," she said.

Though dengue infections fell by 95 cases from the previous week to 530 last week, this could have been due to the Chinese New Year holidays and might not reflect the prevailing trend. She said many people might have been away and some who fell sick might have put off seeing a doctor.

Having started the year with a high base, experts expect the total number of dengue infections to hit a record high this year.

Dr Khor said the change in the dominant dengue virus - there are four different strains - last year will push up numbers, as fewer people would have immunity against it.

More than 3,200 people have been diagnosed with dengue this year - more than double the number for the same period last year.

Usually, one in five victims will need hospital care.

There are more than 100 active dengue clusters, with the biggest in Tampines accounting for 277 people down with the disease.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 13, 2016, with the headline 'Early start for drive to wipe out mozzies'. Print Edition | Subscribe