Rise in Zika cases

Residents, schools, care centres on mozzie alert

Above: Geylang Methodist School (Primary) pupils heading to school yesterday morning. The school, which is in the Aljunied area, had its compound fumigated last Saturday to prevent mosquito breeding. Below: A dengue-prevention banner in Aljunied Cres
Geylang Methodist School (Primary) pupils heading to school yesterday morning. The school, which is in the Aljunied area, had its compound fumigated last Saturday to prevent mosquito breeding.ST PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI
Above: Geylang Methodist School (Primary) pupils heading to school yesterday morning. The school, which is in the Aljunied area, had its compound fumigated last Saturday to prevent mosquito breeding. Below: A dengue-prevention banner in Aljunied Cres
A dengue-prevention banner in Aljunied Crescent, an apt reminder to residents not to let their guard down, especially at this time.ST PHOTOS: LIM YAOHUI

The scent of citronella hung heavy in the air outside Geylang Methodist School (Primary) yesterday morning, where parents were clearly not taking any chances with their children's health.

Several pupils sported stick-on mosquito patches, while others smelt strongly of the fragrant oil used to ward off the insects.

Geylang Methodist School (Secondary) principal Wee Tat Chuen said both schools, which are in the Aljunied area, fumigated their compounds last Saturday to prevent mosquito breeding.

"Both schools have reached out to the parents to share on preventive efforts and advised them to get their children to apply mosquito repellent for further protection," he said.

Across the Aljunied area where 56 people have been diagnosed with the mosquito-borne Zika virus, which may be further transmitted here, schools and residents are leaving no pail unturned in their bid to keep mosquitoes away.

Several childcare centres in the Housing Board blocks around the cluster are all stepping up precautions against mosquitoes.

Ms Chewy Teng, principal of Pu Ti Child Care Centre in Aljunied Crescent, said: "We have mosquitoes here every year around this time, when the weather is hot and wet. This was my big concern even before Zika."

The centre has tried various ways to keep the insects at bay, including spraying insect repellent thrice a day and burning mosquito coils on weekends, when the children are not around. On hearing of the latest outbreak, the team also bought stick-on mosquito patches for the 90 children in the centre.

Madam Margaret Chua, executive director of Bethel Community Services, oversees a kindergarten, as well as three centres caring for infants, children and students respectively.

She and the other teachers rushed to buy plug-in mosquito repellent yesterday morning, and have stopped taking children out to the playground for the time being.

"I think the important thing is that we don't have any breeding grounds, so we've told our housekeeper to be extra careful to cover the toilet bowls and so on," she said.

Some caregivers - such as housewife Seet Ching Har, 60 - prefer to err on the side of caution.

Speaking to The Straits Times after dropping her three-year-old granddaughter off at Pu Ti Child Care Centre, Madam Seet said: "When you have small children, you have to be a bit more careful."

In fact, she packed four bottles of insect repellent for the short trip from her house to the centre.

"I sprayed her arms and legs before leaving the house, and I even sprayed the pram. I would have made her wear a raincoat (to prevent bites) but she didn't want to," Madam Seet said.

While confirmed cases have been picked up only in the Aljunied area, places from Khatib Camp to Joo Chiat have also come under scrutiny as some of the infected live or work in other parts of Singapore.

Minister for Social and Family Development Tan Chuan-Jin, MP for Marine Parade GRC, visited Joo Chiat yesterday to give out leaflets on anti-mosquito measures.

Residents of Joo Chiat, an active dengue cluster, said they are keeping their guard up. Housewife Shiralee Fernando, 41, said: "We're still vigilant as a neighbourhood... and no one I know is pregnant here, so that's a relief."

Pregnant women are most vulnerable to Zika as the virus can cause unborn babies to develop a condition known as microcephaly, or abnormally small heads.

Madam Tan Sai Keow, 65, said she put a mosquito patch on her nine-year-old grandson yesterday before taking him to school.

"After hearing the news, I was more worried, but I have already put the mosquito patches in his room at home, so I'm not concerned about him getting bitten there."

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 30, 2016, with the headline 'Residents, schools, care centres on mozzie alert'. Print Edition | Subscribe