Residents in area taking extra steps to prevent mosquito breeding

An NEA officer distributing pamphlets in Watten Estate yesterday, where a resident has tested positive for the Zika virus. While the Watten Estate area in Bukit Timah is not an active dengue cluster, NEA says it has stepped up operations to control t
An NEA officer distributing pamphlets in Watten Estate yesterday, where a resident has tested positive for the Zika virus. While the Watten Estate area in Bukit Timah is not an active dengue cluster, NEA says it has stepped up operations to control the Aedes mosquito population there.ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

People living in or near Watten Estate, where a resident was found to have the Zika virus yesterday, have expressed surprise and concern about the news.

Some said that mosquitoes have been prevalent in the area for quite some time, while others wanted to know whether the virus was a threat only to pregnant women.

Administrative assistant Emily Luah, 31, who lives in Watten Hill Condominium and is four months pregnant, said she was alarmed when she heard the news of the first Zika case in Singapore.

"I thought, we can do everything and take all the precautions, but sometimes it's hard to cover all the areas," said Ms Luah. "Even before this Zika case, there have always been a lot of mosquitoes in this area. I put up a diffuser at home with lemongrass after I heard the news. It's supposed to repel mosquitoes."

Her husband, bank employee Samuel Lim, 33, said: "Just walk one round around the nearby park and you will get 20 mosquito bites. The NEA (National Environment Agency) should do more."

When The Straits Times visited the area last night, NEA officers were spotted going door to door to give out brochures and insect repellents. They told residents that officers will return to conduct house visits in the coming days.

Banker and investor John Westnedge, 52, who lives in Watten Estate, said it was "surprising and somewhat shocking" to learn that a resident had contracted the virus.

Mr Westnedge, a Singapore permanent resident, added that his family always uses mosquito repellent. "Now, it's time to be more aware and take more precautions," he said.

Most of the 10 residents whom The Straits Times spoke to said they will take extra precautions to prevent the breeding of mosquitoes.

Lawyer Marilyn Chia, 44, said: "My family and I are all scared. We don't know which house it is. From now, we'll use more insect repellent, and also check for stagnant water around the house."

Ms H.M. Pusupa Kanthi Shanthini, 54, a maid, said her employer intends to get a pest control operator to conduct checks every week instead of twice a month. "My employer and I are a little worried, but I think we will be safe. We are always careful about mosquitoes."

Others like retiree Loy Shang Koong, 58, were calm.

"I'm not worried at all. It doesn't matter. I won't do anything extra, it's really up to fate," he said.

Echoing his view, teacher Angie Turner, 41, said: "I'll research to find out what it means for me, and keep myself aware of the necessary precautions. I'm not worried. I don't think being worried is a helpful strategy at all."

While the Watten Estate area in Bukit Timah is not an active dengue cluster, NEA said yesterday that it has stepped up operations to control the Aedes mosquito population in the area.

It also advised residents of Watten Estate, Casa Perla, Hillcrest Arcadia, The Arcadia and Watten Hill Condominium to monitor their health, and seek medical attention if unwell.

•Additional Reporting by Sanjay Nair

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 14, 2016, with the headline 'Residents in area taking extra steps to prevent mosquito breeding'. Print Edition | Subscribe