SINGAPORE: Authorities have stepped up checks for mosquito breeding grounds around several blocks at Bedok Reservoir Road, after a rising number of dengue cases in the area.
In a two-and-a-half-month period since the end of September, there have been 57 reported dengue cases in the cluster, which encompasses blocks 713, 715, 716, 717, 718, 719 and 721.
This makes it the largest dengue cluster this year, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) on Monday (Dec 11), in response to Channel NewsAsia's queries.
NEA said that since the cluster was notified on Sep 30, it has conducted “multiple rounds of inspections in residential premises and outdoor areas”. These include common areas in the estate.
The agency added that its officers have found and destroyed 47 mosquito breeding habitats - 31 in homes and 16 in common areas - since the end of September.
According to its website, Block 717 appears to be the worst hit, with 23 dengue cases. This was followed by Block 716 which had 17 cases.
There are currently four active dengue clusters in Singapore, said NEA on its Stop Dengue Now Facebook page last Wednesday.
On Monday, a Red Dengue Alert banner was put up at a shelter linking blocks 714 and 715 in Bedok Reservoir Road. The alert indicates a high-risk area with 10 or more cases. The same banners were also seen at the sheltered linkway between blocks 717 and 718.
Residents in the affected blocks Channel NewsAsia spoke with said they were concerned about the speed at which dengue has spread. Madam Nor, a resident living in Block 719 with her elderly parents, her two daughters, husband and helper said it was the first time she has encountered a dengue outbreak on such a scale. She has been living in the area for more than 30 years.
“I’m just wondering how dengue numbers have gone up from 10 cases to 50 cases,” she said.
“I think they (NEA officers) have been doing some fogging but it doesn’t seem to be abating.”
Mdm Nor, who lives on the sixth floor, said her family has been taking precautions such as lighting mosquito coils and shutting the windows of their home.
“I was especially concerned about my daughters because it was the exam period and we couldn’t afford for them to be sick. Apart from closing the windows, I would also get my helper to spray insecticide around the house,” she said.
Meanwhile, residents of Block 717, the hardest hit within the cluster, have also been extra cautious. Channel NewsAsia spoke with two residents in the block who contracted dengue in the last two months. Mr Teo, who lives on the 10th floor, said he suspects he was bitten by an infected mosquito while he was jogging. Fortunately, his symptoms were not too serious and he recovered within a week.
But 68-year-old Mohammad Yahya was hospitalised for four days after he came down with dengue in early October. Both residents have since recovered and have taken to applying insect repellent as a precaution.
“We don’t sleep with the air conditioning on, so we apply the mosquito repellent spray before we sleep at night,” Mr Yahya said. He noted that NEA officers have been walking around more frequently and visiting the units to check for stagnant water in bathrooms and plants that may give rise to mosquitoes breeding.
“I myself have a lot of plants outside so I’ve been keeping an extra lookout. After all, it’s not just to protect my family but the neighbours as well,” he said.
NEA urged residents to allow its officers into their homes to carry out indoor spraying. Apart from the banners, it said posters have also been put up at lift lobbies to heighten awareness among residents and members of the public.
“NEA is also working with members of the community from Bedok Reservoir Road to conduct house visits to create awareness and to remind residents to practise the five-step Mozzie Wipeout,” the agency told Channel NewsAsia.
It said pamphlets and insect repellents have been distributed to residents during the visits.
Aljunied-Hougang Town Council, which oversees the area, told Channel NewsAsia it has been working closely with NEA, in areas including “joint operations on the ground and fogging exercises”.
“On a daily basis, our pest control contractor checks for potential breeding sites, and we will continue to conduct chemical oiling to prevent mosquito breeding,” the town council said.
According to the Health Ministry's weekly-published statistics on infectious diseases, there have been more than 2,500 dengue cases so far this year, far fewer than the 12,700 cases seen this time last year.