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    Feb 19, 2016

    More bite given to fight against dengue

    A PERFECT storm of factors threaten to push dengue cases here to a high of more than 30,000 cases this year but the authorities are not standing by idly.

    The National Environment Agency (NEA), Ministry of Health (MOH) and the People's Association aim to intensify inspections and education efforts.

    The Mozzie Wipeout Campaign, which teaches residents how to prevent mosquito breeding in their homes, will be brought forward to the end of this month from April.

    More than 5,000 additional grassroots volunteers will be trained to conduct house visits and educate residents on preventing mosquito breeding, on top of the 5,800 people already trained by NEA.

    Another 20,000 Gravitraps - which are placed in common corridors to trap mosquitoes - will also be rolled out by June to 3,000 Housing Board blocks currently without them.

    NEA warned yesterday that Singapore might see its worse dengue outbreak this year, exceeding the record 22,170 cases in 2013, as a result of warmer temperatures due to the El Nino phenomenon and a switch in the predominant virus serotype to DEN-2 from DEN-1.

    It has observed a 50 per cent increase in the number of mosquitoes caught in its Gravitraps last month, compared with January last year. The number of breeding sites found in homes over the same period also went up by 50 per cent.

    The El Nino phenomenon promotes faster breeding and shorter incubation times for the dengue virus while a switch in predominant virus serotype is usually followed by a spike in dengue cases due to lower immunity to the virus strain in the population.

    "The above development signals the increased possibility of a dengue outbreak in Singapore in 2016," said NEA.

    It added that it will continue to step up inspections islandwide, focusing on areas found to have higher incidence of mosquito breeding, such as construction sites.

    As of Jan 31 this year, NEA has conducted more than 126,000 inspections islandwide and found more than 1,900 instances of mosquito breeding.

    It uncovered breeding sites at 12 per cent of the more than 600 inspections at construction sites. Ten construction sites were fined, and 10 stop orders were issued.

    Outreach efforts will also be intensified through advertisements, posters at bus stops and distribution of pamphlets to residents.

    Yesterday, MOH said the threat of the Zika virus, which is also borne by the Aedes mosquito, makes it even more critical to eradicate mosquito breeding. The virus is said to be linked to microcephaly birth defects in babies, which causes them to be born with abnormally small heads.

    It said it is working to expand Zika virus testing capabilities to public hospital laboratories, and has set up a clinical advisory group to ensure doctors can give expert advice to pregnant women about the virus.