More than 890 new dengue cases in Singapore in a week, surpassing record high from 2014

Singapore is now in its peak dengue season. ST PHOTO: KELVIN CHNG

SINGAPORE - The weekly number of dengue cases in Singapore has reached a record high, with 895 people diagnosed in just five and a half days - surpassing the 891 infections reported for one week in 2014.

The country, which is now in its peak dengue season, has seen a surge in dengue infections this year. More than 10,700 have been infected, and at least 12 have died.

Singapore's worst dengue outbreak took place between 2013 and 2014, when more than 40,000 people were infected and 14 died from the mosquito-borne disease, which can cause very high fever, severe headache and joint and muscle pain.

Ahead of the traditional peak dengue season between June and October, Singapore has already seen twice as many infections compared with the same period last year. This has been due to the rise of a less common dengue virus serotype, as well as warmer temperatures and more rain, which has caused the population of the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which transmits dengue, to increase.

Between January and April, there were 300 to 400 new cases each week.

In May, the number of weekly cases began to increase sharply.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) has suggested that the Covid-19 circuit breaker period - which came into force in April - could have contributed to the spike in infections.

In a report in early June, it noted that the Aedes aegypti mosquito dwells mainly in indoor spaces and tends to bite during the day. With more people working from home, there would be more "blood meals" for the female mosquitoes, the NEA said.

During the two-month circuit breaker, the NEA saw a fivefold increase in the incidence of Aedes mosquito larvae detected in homes and common corridors in residential areas, compared with in the past two months. It also detected a twofold increase in the incidence of Aedes mosquito larvae at construction sites.

The figure of 895 new cases applies only to the period between Sunday (June 7) and 3pm on Friday (June 12), meaning the tally for the entire week - after the latest figures come in - is likely to be higher.

In any case, it might not be long before the weekly record is broken again.

Associate Professor Alex Cook, an epidemiologist at the NUS Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, told The Straits Times last week that if the "regular seasonal trend" of having more dengue cases in the second quarter of the year is maintained, he would not be surprised to see more than 1,000 cases a week soon.

There are now 210 active dengue clusters in Singapore, including 66 "red" ones with at least 10 cases. Some of the most high-risk areas are in Potong Pasir.

On its website, the NEA said it "urgently seeks the community's support" to ensure that their homes, common corridors and gardens in their compounds do not have mosquito breeding sites - for instance, by leaving pails upturned.

Aedes mosquitoes can breed in bodies of stagnant water as small as a 20 cent coin.

The NEA has been taking steps to reduce the spread of dengue. These include laying traps for mosquitoes, and releasing Wolbachia-infected male Aedes mosquitoes in high outbreak areas such as Tampines, so that female mosquitoes they breed with will lay eggs that do not hatch.

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