NEA starts intensive dengue exercise; cases at record high

A red alert dengue banner at a bus stop in Geylang Road. The National Environment Agency has warned that even though dengue cases fell by more than 20 per cent last week, weekly numbers remain high. Singapore is in the midst of the traditional dengue
A red alert dengue banner at a bus stop in Geylang Road. ST PHOTO: DESMOND WEE

Dengue cases fell by more than 20 per cent last week, but weekly numbers remain high, the National Environment Agency (NEA) warned yesterday.

It said more than 600,000 households are located in over 390 dengue clusters islandwide.

Singapore is in the midst of the traditional dengue season from May to October and the agency is working with all town councils - as well as numerous other stakeholders - to curb the spread of dengue in the coming fortnight.

This "intensive" two-week islandwide exercise comes as the number of dengue cases this year reached a record high.

In what looks to be the country's worst outbreak in history, 22,403 people have contracted dengue as of Tuesday, surpassing the previous full-year high of 22,170 in 2013.

As of Sunday, 20 people have died from the disease, matching 2019's full-year count of 20. The highest full-year fatality count to date is in 2005, when 25 people died.

The NEA called on all residents to cooperate, urging those in hot spots in particular to perform three protective actions.

These are: Spray insecticide in dark corners around the house, apply insect repellent regularly, and wear long sleeves and long pants.

Residents should also cooperate with NEA officers doing inspection rounds, as well as check for and get rid of stagnant water in their homes at least once a week.

NEA chief executive officer Tan Meng Dui said: "Concerted individual and collective efforts are the most effective way to break the dengue transmission chain, and bring the dengue situation under control."

Providing an update on the dengue situation yesterday, the agency said weekly cases have remained "persistently high" at above 1,000 for the eighth consecutive week now.

Large clusters also remain, with up to 79 per cent of mosquitoes in the cluster near Bukit Panjang Ring Road and Jelapang Road found to be breeding in homes.

But there are signs that the situation could be taking a turn for the better. Weekly dengue cases fell from a high of 1,792 in the third week of July to 1,380 last week, the NEA said.

The number of dengue clusters has also dropped - from 434 on July 28 to 391 on Tuesday.

This is partly due to the Government's intensified efforts, the NEA said, which include mass publicity on television and online platforms, intensified dengue inspection, as well as deploying volunteers to engage residents in large dengue cluster areas.

Volunteers have engaged almost 55,000 people, and more than 552,000 inspections islandwide have been conducted between January and last month.

This year's outbreak has been particularly bad for several reasons, one of which is that more people are staying at home in the day due to the coronavirus pandemic, which provides "day-biter" mosquitoes with more targets.

Other factors include the prevalence of a previously less dominant serotype of dengue which people have lower immunity to, which likely led to the unusually high number of weekly cases since the start of the year, even before the usual dengue season began.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on August 06, 2020, with the headline NEA starts intensive dengue exercise; cases at record high. Subscribe