529 dengue cases reported last week; NEA warns of higher dengue risk in homes during circuit breaker period

529 dengue cases reported last week; NEA warns of higher dengue risk in homes during circuit breaker period

File photo of an Aedes mosquito, which spreads the dengue virus
File photo of an Aedes mosquito. (Photo: AFP)

SINGAPORE: The number of dengue cases in Singapore is on the rise, with a total of 529 dengue cases reported in the week ending May 16, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) in a media release on Monday (May 18).

This is higher than the 300 to 400 weekly cases in the first four months of the year, said the agency, as it warned of an increased risk of dengue in the warmer months ahead.

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"As we enter the warmer months ahead, the increased risk of higher transmission of dengue is a concern," said the agency.

This is due to the accelerated breeding cycle and maturation of Aedes mosquitoes, as well as a shorter incubation period of the dengue virus.

About 84 per cent of the the 821 dengue clusters notified this year have been closed, said the agency, but large clusters still persist. 

These include a cluster of 153 cases located at Pavilion Circle, one at Woodleigh Close with 136 cases and another at Westwood Avenue with 104 cases. Intensive vector control efforts are ongoing in these places.

However the 189-case cluster at Jurong West Street 91, 183-case cluster at Begonia Drive, 154-case cluster at Elias Road, 148-case cluster at Jalan Bangau, 124-case cluster at Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 and 106-case cluster at Gangsa Road were closed in the first four months of the year.

From January to April, the agency conducted about 310,000 inspections for mosquito breeding islandwide, and uncovered more than 6,400 mosquito breeding habitats.

INCREASED AEDES MOSQUITO BREEDING IN HOMES

There has been a marked increase in Aedes mosquito breeding found in homes in recent years, and such breeding has continued to persist even during the current "circuit breaker" period to stem the spread of COVID-19, said NEA.

The agency said it had observed a 50 per cent increase in Aedes mosquito larval breeding in homes over the past three years, as compared to the three years preceding this period.

"During the circuit breaker period, NEA continues to detect mosquito breeding in homes, despite residents spending most of their time at home and having more opportunities to remove mosquito breeding habitats," said the agency.

It urged homeowners and occupants to pay attention to any mosquito breeding or adult mosquitoes present in their homes, and to take the necessary steps to prevent or remove them.

"With more people staying home, there is a higher risk of disease transmission within housing estates, especially in areas where the population of the Aedes mosquito vector - a day biter - is high," said NEA.

"Besides good housekeeping to prevent mosquito breeding within their own premises, residents can also take simple, proactive steps against adult mosquitoes in the environment to help break the transmission chain."

READ: More mosquitoes or mutating virus? Experts have different views on dengue spike

This includes preventive spraying of insecticide in dark corners of the home, such as under the bed and sofa, behind the curtains, and in the toilets, said the agency.

During the circuit breaker period, the agency said it has continued home inspection efforts to remove mosquito breeding in large dengue cluster areas in order to stem the transmission of the disease.

Along with the Ministry of Health, polyclinics and general practitioners, it has also provided more than 300,000 bottles of mosquito repellent for distribution to patients with suspected dengue fever.

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NEA officers performing dengue home inspections are equipped with personal protective equipment, and take necessary precautions to protect themselves and homeowners and occupiers during the course of their work, said the agency.

These precautions include not reporting to work if unwell, a strict temperature tracking regime, and sanitising their hands before and after every home inspection. Residents in dengue cluster areas are strongly urged to cooperate with NEA officers and facilitate their checks, added the agency.

FOCUS ON CONSTRUCTION SITES

Preventive surveillance has also been stepped up at construction sites given their closure during the circuit breaker period, said NEA, with increased audits to ensure control measures are in place.

Singapore worker fumigates dogging mosquito dengue construction site
Workers wearing face masks fumigate a construction site to prevent the spread of dengue fever in Singapore on Apr 17, 2020. (Photo: AFP/Roslan Rahman)

Before the start of the circuit breaker period, construction site operators were told to maintain a minimum workforce to carry out housekeeping and facilitate pest control services within the sites.

Since then, NEA said it has increased audits to make sure vector control measures are in place.

Of the 1,514 construction and additional and alteration work sites, those within dengue cluster areas and within residential areas will see prioritised audits by the NEA. To date, 50 per cent of these have been inspected. 

READ: Construction firms rely on on-site workers, pest control companies to prevent mosquito breeding during circuit breaker

From January to April, 31 summonses and two stop work orders were issued to construction sites, and two contractors will be charged in court for repeat offences, added the agency.

NEA is also working with the Ministry of Manpower and operators of dormitories to ensure that vector control measures are in place, as most dormitory residents are staying indoors.

Information about locations with higher Aedes mosquito populations and dengue clusters can be found on the NEA website and myENV app.

Source: CNA/ic(nc)

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