The National Environment Agency (NEA) warns that the number of dengue cases this year is projected to exceed last year’s figures unless immediate action is taken by all stakeholders.
In a release on Monday (20 April), the NEA said that there have been almost 5,800 dengue cases reported as of mid-April this year. This is more than twice the number of cases reported in the same period in 2019.
“With the traditional dengue peak season coming up from May to September, the number of dengue cases in 2020 is projected to exceed the 16,000 cases in 2019, unless immediate measures are taken to suppress the Aedes mosquito population,” said the statement.
NEA also noted that the weekly figures remain high and continue to be a public health concern, around 300 to 400 cases a week.
The agency said that this is an “unusually high number” for the period before what is considered the typical peak dengue season, warning that if the predominant dengue virus serotype continues to shift, the rate of dengue transmission could worsen.
Generally, the dengue virus serotype 2 known as DENV-2 has been the predominant strain in the country. However, NEA noted in March that the dengue virus serotype 3 or DENV-3 has been on the rise lately.
This is a concern because the country hasn’t had a dengue outbreak driven by DENV-3 for over three decades, meaning there is a lower immunity to it across the population.
In their latest statement, the NEA also highlighted the notification received by the Ministry of Health (MOH) of five dengue deaths this year between the ages of 60 and 80 who either worked or lived within dengue clusters.
NEA advised vigilance and a sustained vector control effort in the current situation, especially as the country faces warmer months ahead, and it called for urgent increase in community action against the disease as operations continue amid the current pandemic.
Practising good housekeeping is critical
Given that most people are working from home during the COVID-19 circuit breaker period, the NEA has advised people to pay more attention to potential mosquito breeding sites in their homes and do take the necessary action to remove them.
Over the past three years, NEA said it has seen a 50% increase of mosquito larval breeding in home compared to the same period before that.
The agency added, “”We urge everyone to be vigilant and to frequently check for common potential mosquito breeding habitats, such as pails, dish trays, flower pot plates or trays, vases, and ornamental containers.
“Clean and stagnant water in residents’ homes, as small in volume as the size of a 20-cent coin, can be potential mosquito breeding habitats.”
For those who live in landed houses, NEA also reminded them to check roof gutters and perimeter drains for potential breeding sites.
The agency also ask people to be alert over whether people are getting bitten more at home. It explained that the female Aedes mosquito, the main vector of dengue in Singapore, is active in the daytime and usually dwells in homes. As such, NEW advised people to use aerosol insecticide in dark corners of their homes to kill these mosquitoes.
Ramping up inspections at construction sites and public areas
Apart from homes, the NEA also said it is working with other agencies and stakeholders in the Inter-Agency Dengue Task Force to get rid of potential breeding grounds in housing estates and public areas, explaining that some of the top mosquito breeding sites in common areas are discarded receptacles and drains.
“Despite increased demands on the cleaning sector arising from the ongoing COVID-19 situation, NEA has worked with our cleaning service providers and town councils to ensure that cleaning of higher footfall areas and flushing of drains are not compromised,” said the agency.
It added that despite the closure of businesses during this circuit breaker period, owners of premises and work sites are still responsible to ensure that adequate measures are taken at the premises they are responsible for. This includes construction sites.
NEA said it will be ramping up inspections of common properties and construction sites.
It has also issue advisories to the Singapore Contractors Association Ltd earlier this month (3 April) to remind operators to ensure good upkeep of their sites to prevent mosquitoes from breeding.
“All stakeholders, including residents, contractors, and business owners, have a part to play in preventing dengue,” stressed the NEA.