On Wednesday (November 27), the National Environment Agency (NEA) advised people who are going on vacation for the year-long holidays to ensure their homes are mosquito-proof, amid an increase of dengue cases in the country.
In an advisory, NEA stated that the as of 23 November (Saturday), the total number of dengue cases reported in the Republic stands at 14,658, which is about five-and-a-half times more than the same period of 2018. But, this is only about two-thirds of the cases seen in the 2013 dengue outbreak, which recorded 22,170 cases for the entire year.
The Agency that since 13 October this year, the number of dengue cases in Singapore has steadily risen over a five-week period, before coming down coming down last week.
They noted that there are multiple reasons for the high number of cases in recent weeks, with the likely contributors being the high population of Aedes mosquitoes, low immunity in the human population as well as warmer temperature.
“The most salient factor is likely the 32% increase in the Aedes aegypti adult mosquito population in October, compared to in September 2019,” NEA said.
It added that the number of larvae breeding sites found in homes was also 55% higher over the same period.
Currently, there are 76 active dengue clusters in the country, and the five largest ones are located at Choa Chu Kang Avenue 2, Elias Road, Jalan Bangau, Jurong West Street 61 as well as Begonia Lane, NEA stated.
It added that most of the mosquito breeding spots in these clusters are within residential premises.
Additionally, NEA also pointed out that the number of dengue cases could increase further.
“For example, in 2013 and 2015, there were year-end spikes in the number of dengue cases, and on both occasions, we entered the following year with an atypically high number of dengue cases. There is a possibility of the number of dengue cases continuing to rise further as we approach this year-end,” NEA stated.
It added, “We urge everyone to take immediate action to eliminate potential mosquito breeding habitats, and join in the collective effort to stop dengue transmission.”
Methods to have mosquito-proof homes
Given that the number of cases may rise during the year-end holiday season and homes are deemed as the biggest breeding spots for mosquitoes, NEA advised residents to cover all toilet bowls and floor traps, as well as seal off overflow pipes of flushing cisterns before leaving the house for their vacation.
If that’s not all, NEA also suggested people to add sand granular insecticide to places where mosquitoes could breed and where stagnant water cannot be removed.
They also should get rid of debris and blockages, place BTI insecticide in roof gutters and turn over water storage containers and wipe dry the rims.
Next, NEA highlighted that the public can ask a relative or someone close to them to check their home regularly for stagnant water if they are away from home for a long time. They should also leave their contact details with neighbours or the neighbourhood police post or centre, so they can be reached whenever needed.
“We encourage everyone to be an advocate of dengue prevention, and to remind his or her family members and neighbours to join in the collective effort to stop dengue transmission,” NEA noted.
In terms of how NEA is trying to curb this issue, it said that it has reached out to stakeholders with the Gravitrap surveillance data, in order to help them prioritise their dengue prevention and control measures, as well as to target areas with higher mosquito population.
Gravitraps are small cylinders in the colour black that trap female Aedes aegypti mosquitoes searching for water areas to lay eggs on.
NEA along with the Inter-Agency Dengue Task Force (IADTF) have kept up inspections at dengue cluster areas.
In addition, NEA also said that it “has shared with Town Councils and stakeholders information on areas with higher mosquito population, so that stepped-up preventive measures can be taken.”
Between January and September this year, about 703, 000 inspections were carried our island-wide, and NEA uncovered about 11,700 mosquito breeding habitats.
On top of that, about 6,300 enforcement actions were also taken for mosquito breeding against premise owners in the same period.
“To safeguard public health, NEA will not hesitate to take enforcement action against anyone found to have created conditions favourable for the propagation or harbouring of vectors,” the Agency warned.
It added, “All residents living in dengue cluster areas are strongly encouraged to cooperate with NEA officers and to facilitate checks (by the officers) and indoor misting in their homes.”
In July this year, NEA stated in its website that the figure for dengue cases in a week has hit a new 5-year high, with 665 cases recorded just in a week.
To highlight the seriousness of this problem, 44 individuals have had the more severe dengue haemorrhagic fever, and 20 people have lost their lives so far.
In response to this, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Masagos Zulkifli noted that mayors, grassroots advisers, community leaders as well as dengue prevention volunteers have amped-up public education campaigns as it contributed to the decrease in dengue cases and dengue clusters from its peak in July.