Jul 25, 2013

    Fewer cases, but dengue still a threat

    THE number of new dengue cases weekly has been falling, but grassroots volunteers are still soldiering on to spread the anti-dengue message among residents.

    And they continue to face challenges. For instance, some grassroots leaders are worried about residents becoming complacent.

    There were 394 dengue cases in the week ending last Saturday, marking a decline for the fourth week in a row, going by figures from the website.

    For the week ending on June 22, there were 842 cases. Four people have died here from locally-acquired dengue this year.

    Mr David Seow, a grassroots leader from the Kembangan-Chai Chee Citizens' Consultative Committee, said that his team had met residents who were complacent about the dengue situation as they went about spreading the anti-dengue message.

    They are, however, in the minority, he said.

    Even so, Mr Seow said it was worrying as he still meets residents who think that dengue is no longer an issue, and he hoped residents would continue to be vigilant.

    "It is normal to meet people like that when we go door-to-door. It is part and parcel of the exercise," he said.

    Mr Seow added that he and other volunteers would continue to spread the message by speaking to residents, and leaving fliers in their mailbox or on their doorstep.

    Wary residents can pose difficulties for some volunteers.

    Mr Albert Leong, chairman of the Changi Simei Community Emergency and Engagement Committee, and his team have also been going door-to-door to spread the anti-dengue message. They continue to do so on a weekly basis.

    Mr Leong said his team still meet residents who are reluctant to hear what they have to say.

    "Residents will hurriedly tell us that their homes are dengue-free. They think that we are from the National Environment Agency. They worry that we are going to issue them a summons," he explained.

    Still, Mr Leong said his team do not mind spending more time explaining the situation to such residents, as they eventually become more receptive.

    Dengue is spread by the Aedes mosquito.

    Dr Ng Lee Ching, director of the Environmental Health Institute, said the decline in dengue cases was encouraging. But "the number of weekly cases is still high", she added.

    In March, the number of weekly cases hit around 300 at one point - The Straits Times said there were usually fewer than 100 cases a week around that period.

    The 394 cases last week is still higher than those figures.

    From Sunday to Tuesday, there were at least 130 dengue cases.

    Dr Ng said the Singapore population's herd immunity to dengue remains low, and that the country is still in the midst of the dengue season.

    "We need to remain vigilant and continue with the Mozzie Wipeout to keep the mosquito population low, in order to help sustain the current downward trend and prevent a possible reversal," she said.

    The Mozzie Wipeout's five steps are:

    Changing water in vases and bowls on alternate days.

    Removing water from flower-pot plates on alternate days.

    Turning over all water-storage containers.

    Covering bamboo-pole holders when not in use.

    Clearing blockages and putting BTI insecticide in roof gutters monthly.