Jun 12, 2013

    NEA going all out in war against dengue

    SINGAPORE is at a "critical juncture" in the current dengue epidemic, with the number of fresh cases expected to reach close to 1,000 this week.

    Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan warned of this yesterday in the light of an all-time high of 820 new cases recorded in the week which ended last Saturday.

    The epidemic is driven by factors such as low population immunity against the virus and the continued transmission of the virus with high epidemic potential.

    Hot and wet weather is also expected in the coming months.

    This will accelerate the life cycle of the Aedes mosquito, as well as increase the likelihood of stagnant water, which creates more potential breeding grounds.

    "Our assessment is that (the situation) is going to worsen in the short term before it improves," Dr Balakrishnan told reporters.

    He was chairing a press conference to give an update on the situation and reveal measures to combat the epidemic.

    The National Environment Agency (NEA) said yesterday that it will up the ante in the dengue war, by recruiting more officers and enhancing measures to control the adult-mosquito population (see sidebar).

    As of Monday, 9,467 dengue cases have been reported this year, surpassing the 8,826 cases reported during the 2007 epidemic.

    Two people have succumbed to the virus - Mr Ang Yong Han, 20, who died on May 29; and a 60-year-old man, who died on Sunday.

    At the event, Minister of State for Health Amy Khor said a reminder circular on dengue cases had been sent to hospitals recently. It urged medical staff to be more careful with patients who return to the Accident and Emergency department, and to give them higher priority in the wait time.

    Dr Khor said that public hospitals have added over 160 beds since March, and, if the need arises, they are equipped to handle any surge in dengue cases.

    Less than 30 per cent of dengue cases are admitted to hospital, she added.

    In the week ending Saturday, the maximum daily bed occupancy by dengue patients was about 120 beds, or 1.8 per cent of public-hospital beds, said a Ministry of Health spokesman.

    Dr Balakrishnan called on Singaporeans to do their part in the battle against dengue - from making sure their homes are free of mosquito breeding, to cooperating with NEA officers in opening up their homes to inspections.

    "Infectious diseases are a test of social cohesion of a society, and we need everyone to understand that our own health depends on the health of our neighbour," he added.

    Yesterday, researchers from the Nanyang Technological University unveiled a mobile application being tested called MoBuzz, which can warn users when they enter a dengue hot spot.