Sembawang GRC, NEA step up dengue fight, Latest Singapore News - The New Paper

Sembawang GRC, NEA step up dengue fight

This article is more than 12 months old

Efforts include visiting every household in the constituency, including 'breaking into apartments that seem vacant'

Sembawang GRC and the National Environment Agency have said they are doing everything they can to stop the transmission of dengue, amid the current epidemic affecting Singapore.

Efforts have been stepped up particularly around Woodlands Avenue 6 where a total of 360 people have been infected in two dengue clusters, which are currently the largest here.

These include visiting every household in the constituency and "breaking into apartments that seem vacant", according to Coordinating Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Khaw Boon Wan, who is one of the MPs for the area.

"We have mobilised our grassroots activists and also the students from the schools nearby," he told The Straits Times yesterday.

"The rate of growth of new cases is coming down. But we must not slacken our efforts."

Mr Khaw said residents are aware of the steps they need to take to prevent dengue.

The feedback he got from a Housing Board block party on Sunday was that "they are concerned but quietly confident that the cluster will close in due course".

"I share their optimism," said Mr Khaw.

Retiree Hamid Mohd Ismail, 67, did not know that 13 people living in his block of flats - Block 788 Woodlands Avenue 6 - had been diagnosed with dengue.

But he said "government officials came two times already in the past few weeks" to conduct spot checks.

More than 5,500 people have been infected with the mosquito-borne virus this year, of whom about 2,000 have needed hospital care. Five have died.

Experts said the surge in cases after two years of relatively low numbers - 3,285 in 2018 and 2,767 in 2017 - is due to a change in the dominant dengue strain.

There are four strains of dengue virus, with Den-1 and Den-2 generally taking turns being dominant. Infection of one strain gives immunity to that particular strain but not to the other three.

Professor Ooi Eng Eong, deputy director of the Emerging Infectious Diseases Programme at Duke-NUS Medical School, said Den-2 - the current dominant strain - is more of a problem for people who have been infected with other strains before.

This could explain the 41 people who have had the more severe dengue haemorrhagic fever (DHF) this year.

This is the highest number since 2013 when Singapore experienced its worst dengue epidemic with more than 22,000 people infected. There were 93 DHF cases that year.

There are now 119 active dengue clusters islandwide. Two construction sites - in Tampines and Toa Payoh - have been given stop-work orders after mosquitoes were found breeding on the premises.