DON’T play, play with mosquitoes: They bite seriously and deadly with two fatal cases in the first six weeks of this year.
The alarm bells are ringing from the first couple of cases involving dengue-related deaths and the Ministry of Health (MOH) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) are very concerned.
The authorities confirm that a 74-year-old resident of Bedok Reservoir Road died on Feb 3, while a 77-year-old resident of Hougang Avenue 3 died on Feb 7.
The two locations have since been categorised as dengue clusters, where NEA officers have carried out insecticide spraying in homes and in public common areas. So far, six dengue cases have been reported at Hougang Avenue 3. Two mosquito breeding habitats detected in common areas were found and destroyed.
The massive dengue cluster encircled by Bedok Reservoir Road, Jalan Damai, Jalan Tenaga and Kaki Bukit Avenue 1, however, currently hold a total of 167 reported dengue cases. 102 mosquito breeding habitats were destroyed as of Friday, including 79 found in residential premises, eight in industrial premises and 15 in common areas.
SEEK MEDICAL ATTENTION EARLY
“Persons infected with dengue should protect themselves from mosquito bites by applying repellent regularly,” advises the NEA. “If you are unwell and showing symptoms suggestive of dengue, you are advised to seek medical attention early.”
The bite-statistics are frightening: In 2018 alone, a total of 3,285 dengue cases were reported in Singapore – a 20 per cent rise from the 2,772 cases recorded in the preceding 12 months. Notably, five people aged between 41 to 75 died of dengue fever last year.
The NEA intends to crack the whip harder with more enforcement action against owners whose premises contained mosquito breeding habitats.
For the record, dengue continues to be a problem in Singapore, with 455 cases reported in the first two weeks of January, thrice as many compared with the same two-week period last year.
But there have been efforts to combat the dengue menace. In Nee Soon East and Tampines West, the population of dengue-carrying mosquitoes has been cut by at least half after the release of sterile male mosquitoes, which leads to eggs that cannot hatch. It is part of a NEA scheme called Project Wolbachia and it will be expanded to wider areas in the two estates.
The Wolbachia-Aedes mosquitoes’ job is to control and reduce the Aedes aegypti mosquito population, the primary species responsible for transmitting dengue and Zika. Eggs produced from the union of a male Wolbachia-Aedes mosquito and the female Aedes mosquito will not hatch. This limits the number of mosquito larvae each female Aedes mosquito can produce.
Just browse through these hard-biting statistics: In 2018, NEA conducted about one million inspections for mosquito breeding, including about 9,000 checks at construction sites, and uncovered about 18,000 mosquito breeding habitats.
The NEA website says as at November last year, about 4,100 households were fined for mosquito breeding. About 500 notices to attend Court and 40 Stop Work Orders were issued to construction sites. A total of 25 court prosecutions were also made against contractors for repeat offences.
A spokesman warns: “ The NEA will continue with these inspection and enforcement efforts in 2019. To safeguard public health, NEA will not hesitate to take contractors and residents to task for mosquito breeding found at their premises. In particular, NEA will take strong enforcement actions against recalcitrant errant premises owners.”
To keep dengue in check, NEA has commenced intensive source reduction exercise with major stakeholders. Together with the members of the Inter-Agency Dengue Task Force, as well as all Town Councils, NEA will continue its efforts to remove potential mosquito breeding habitats from public areas and housing estates.
Effective dengue prevention requires the vigilance and participation of everyone in the community. NEA strongly urges all members of the public to do their part to prevent and remove any breeding habitats of Aedes mosquitoes, and to remain vigilant in suppressing the Aedes mosquito population. These efforts will also contribute towards preventing the transmission of Zika and Chikungunya viruses.
If you’re planning to go overseas for vacation in the coming weeks, you should also mosquito-proof their homes before travel. You can keep your neighbourhoods safe from dengue by taking the following mosquito prevention measures:
- Cover all toilet bowls in the home
- Seal the overflow pipe of the flushing cistern
- Cover and seal all floor traps
- Add sand granular insecticide to areas where stagnant water cannot be easily removed
- Clear blockages and place Bti insecticide in roof gutters
- Turn over all water storage containers and wipe the rims dry
- Ask a relative or close friend to check your home regularly for stagnant water if you are going away for a long period of time
- Leave your contact details with your neighbours or the neighbourhood police post/centre so that you can be easily contacted
- If you’re infected with dengue, you should protect from mosquito bites by applying repellent regularly, and those showing symptoms suggestive of dengue should see doctors early to be diagnosed. The latest updates on the dengue situation can be found on NEA’s website, the Stop Dengue Now Facebook page, or the myENV app.
End of the day, the ball is in your backyard, says the NEA to Singaporeans: It reminds the public to play their part to help stem dengue transmission in affected areas, including by applying insect repellent and checking their premises daily for potential mosquito breeding habitats.
Don’t play, play with mosquitoes: Remember, they bite seriously and deadly, evident from two fatal cases in the first six weeks.