Volunteers take dengue message to Jurong East

With bottles of mosquito repellent in hand, 120 grassroots volunteers went door to door in Jurong East yesterday.

Jurong East is home to three active dengue clusters, the largest in Jurong East Street 13 with 34 cases. One cluster in Street 21 has four cases while a third in Street 24 has three. But many residents do not know that they live in such clusters.

"The awareness is surprisingly low," said Ms Grace Fu, MP for Yuhua SMC, who led the the volunteers as they covered close to 100 blocks of flats yesterday.

Ms Fu, who is also Minister for Culture, Community and Youth, said they were spurred into action after eight new cases were reported recently. She appealed to grassroots volunteers at the exercise to tell their friends and neighbours about dengue risks, and help monitor the situation on the ground.

National Environment Agency statistics show that most cases of mosquito breeding happen in homes. From March 14, all home owners will be fined $200 if mosquitoes are found breeding in their homes. Previously, only home owners in dengue clusters were fined.

But this will not be the key message from volunteers to residents.

Ms Fu said: "We want the residents to do the right thing to protect themselves. We don't like fines to be the reason."

The number of new dengue cases reported in the week ending Feb 27 was 512, down from 590 the week before. Since Jan 3, 4,812 people have been infected. Two have died.

Last month, the NEA warned that the total number of cases this year could surpass 30,000, exceeding the record 22,170 cases in 2013.

Housewife Sahimah Basari, 64, who lives in Jurong East Street 21, said she makes sure she overturns all her pails to prevent the accumulation of stagnant water.

Her neighbour, student Rachel Tan, 17, said her family has stocked up on mosquito repellent.

"I'm especially worried because I am very prone to mosquito bites. Nowadays, I will spray mosquito repellent on myself before I leave my house," she said.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 07, 2016, with the headline 'Volunteers take dengue message to Jurong East'. Print Edition | Subscribe