Hospitals coping well in the face of both dengue, Covid-19 outbreaks

Generally, one in five people diagnosed with dengue ends up in hospital. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Hospitals here are coping well despite having two major infectious disease outbreaks, Covid-19 and dengue, going on at the same time.

Associate Professor Kenneth Mak, director of medical services at the Ministry of Health, said: "The dengue outbreak at this point in time has not taxed us in terms of our ability to provide hospital care for patients, whether (they have) Covid-19 conditions or other medical conditions."

Singapore is facing one of its worst dengue outbreaks, with 1,468 people infected last week, the highest weekly number ever.

Yesterday, the multi-ministry task force tackling the Covid-19 outbreak was asked if people were being tested for both diseases as they share some common symptoms such as fever.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong replied that when patients have symptoms common to both diseases, "we do test both dengue as well as Covid-19, depending on the presentation of the cases".

Prof Mak said that having a dengue outbreak amid the Covid-19 outbreak "complicates matters for our doctors because they have to distinguish between a fever that presents in a patient with Covid-19 infection versus a fever from dengue".

But he agreed with Mr Gan that where it is not possible to make that distinction based on clinical symptoms and signs, the patients will be tested for both dengue and Covid-19 to make sure one or the other infection is not missed.

He said many patients with dengue do not need to be hospitalised. Most are treated at general practitioner clinics or polyclinics.

Generally, one in five people diagnosed with dengue ends up in hospital. So, of the 14,500 people infected with dengue this year, fewer than 3,000 needed to be hospitalised.

In contrast, more than 44,000 people have been infected with Covid-19. About four in five have only a mild illness.

There have been 16 deaths from dengue this year and 26 from Covid-19.

Mr Gan said it was important to eliminate all possible breeding sites for mosquitoes because the rising number of dengue cases will "eventually stretch our medical system" and also raise the number of cases that clinics have to see.

With more people working from home, he said it is important to eliminate breeding sites of the dengue-spreading Aedes mosquito, which bites in the day.

Cutting down on dengue infections helps in the fight against Covid-19 as having two outbreaks "creates more noise in terms of detection", he said.


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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on July 03, 2020, with the headline Hospitals coping well in the face of both dengue, Covid-19 outbreaks. Subscribe