SINGAPORE: With two-thirds of the year still to go, the National Environment Agency (NEA) is already warning that the number of dengue cases in 2020 is projected to surpass 2019's figure, unless "immediate measures" are taken.
In a media release on Monday (Apr 20), NEA said as of mid-April, almost 5,800 dengue cases were reported - more than double that over 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."
NEA added that weekly figures remain high - around 300 to 400 cases - and these continue to be a public health concern.
This, the NEA said, is an "unusually high number" before the typical peak dengue season and could worsen the rate of dengue transmission if the predominant dengue virus serotype continues to change, something NEA said in March.
Dengue virus serotype 2 (DENV-2) is the more predominant strain, but there has been an increase in dengue virus serotype 3 (DENV-3) cases lately.
Singapore has not seen a dengue outbreak driven by DENV-3 for more than 30 years, which translates to lower immunity across the population.
NEA also highlighted that the Ministry of Health (MOH) has been notified of five dengue deaths so far in 2020.
The cases were aged between 60 and 80 and had resided or worked within dengue cluster areas.
"Given the current situation, we must maintain vigilance and sustain our vector control efforts, especially as we enter the warmer months ahead," said NEA.
GOOD HOUSEKEEPING CRITICAL DURING "CIRCUIT BREAKER"
With most people working from home during the COVID-19 "circuit breaker", NEA advised home owners and occupants to pay more attention to any mosquito breeding at home, and take the necessary steps to remove breeding sites.
NEA said over the past three years, it saw a 50 per cent increase in mosquito larval breeding in homes, compared to the same period before that.
"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," NEA added.
NEA also urged those who live in landed houses to check their roof gutters and perimeter drains for potential breeding habitats.
Another thing to watch out for, said NEA - if people are getting bitten more frequently at home.
The female Aedes adult mosquito is the main vector of dengue in Singapore and it usually dwells inside of homes and is active during the daytime. NEA has advised that people kill these mosquitoes by spraying aerosol insecticide in the dark corners of their homes.
ENHANCED MEASURES IN PUBLIC AREAS AND CONSTRUCTION SITES
Aside from homes, NEA said it is working closely with other agencies and stakeholders, including Town Councils, represented in the Inter-Agency Dengue Task Force to remove potential breeding sites in public areas and housing estates.
Discarded receptacles and drains are among the top mosquito breeding sites in common areas.
"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," it added.
Despite the closure of businesses during the circuit breaker period, owners of premises and work sites need to ensure adequate vector control measures are taken at all premises they are responsible for, including construction sites.
NEA will also be stepping up its inspections of common properties, especially drains, as well as construction sites.
NEA has also issued advisories to the Singapore Contractors Association Ltd on Apr 3, reminding construction site operators to ensure proper upkeep of their sites to prevent mosquito breeding.
"All stakeholders, including residents, contractors, and business owners, have a part to play in preventing dengue."