Govt needs to quickly tackle dengue situation in 'large' Serangoon, Hougang clusters: Grace Fu

SINGAPORE - The authorities need to quickly "get a handle on the situation" in Serangoon, Kovan and Hougang, where dengue has spread widely creating some of the largest clusters across Singapore, said Second Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Grace Fu on Sunday.

That is why they are paying particular attention to the area, she said, to better understand mosquito breeding patterns there so as to reduce the number of infections.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has, since two weeks ago, stepped up its efforts by deploying 200 officers there daily - including at night and on weekends - to uncover and destroy breeding sites.

The 17 dengue clusters in the area, which has historically been a dengue hotspot, have led to more than 650 people being infected this year(2014).

Four of the five largest clusters across the island are from there.

It is still unclear exactly why so many clusters have formed in one specific area. The affected area stretching from Hougang Avenue 2 to Bartley Road is about six square kilometres in size.

To date, the NEA has checked 11,000 homes and more than 100 other premises, uncovering 284 breeding sites.

Two-thirds of these were in homes, 12 per cent in Town Council managed areas, and 7 per cent in construction sites.

"It's an important cluster for us to focus resources," said Ms Fu while visiting the area to be briefed on progress by the NEA.

"It's a big cluster and there are many cases."

However, the diverse land-use patterns there make it a "difficult landscape" for NEA to manage, she said, noting that the area has a large number of landed homes interspersed with condominiums, HDB blocks, shophouses and transport nodes.

This means more officers needed for inspections, and they sometimes cannot immediately enter homes as the owners are out.

Across Singapore, more than 7,800 people have contracted dengue so far, with one death. During last year's record epidemic, more than 22,000 were infected, and seven died.

Join ST's WhatsApp Channel and get the latest news and must-reads.