Dengue infections will be high this year, warns NEA

View of Aedes mosquitoes.
View of Aedes mosquitoes.PHOTO: AFP

SINGAPORE - This is going to be a bad year for dengue, the National Environment Agency (NEA) has warned.

Not only will the number of infections be high, the cases are expected to spike earlier than in previous years.

This is due to the confluence of three factors: high numbers in what is usually the low season, increases in the mosquito population, and a change in the dominant viral strain.

A statement from the agency on Friday said: "We are starting off the year with an unusually high base of dengue cases."

Since 2013, Den-1 had been the dominant virus spread by the Aedes mosquito, accounting for more than half the infections. But now, more than two-thirds are due to the Den-2 serotype, which marks a significant shift.

The NEA said: "From historical trends, such changes in dengue serotype signal possible spike in dengue cases."

On top of that, it added that it has also seen a further increase in the Aedes mosquito population due to the slightly warmer than usual year-end weather.

On Friday, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources, Masagos Zulkifli visited Singapore's biggest dengue cluster where 195 people have been infected, which is also in his constituency of Tampines GRC.

NEA officers have found a total of 86 breeding sites in this area so far - 60 were in homes, and one in a construction site

In his Facebook post, he said: "We found adult mosquitoes and larvae in some of the Gravitraps, indicating a high level of mosquito activity, despite three rounds of home inspections and destruction of breeding habitats.

"We need to prevent mosquito breeding. But NEA officers and Town Councils cannot achieve this alone," he wrote.

More than 11,200 people were diagnosed with dengue last year (2015) with four dying as a result.

NEA officers carried out more than 1.4 million inspections last year and found 15,000 breeding spots.