Singapore - A data-sharing network to fight dengue in Singapore and Malaysia is expected to grow with the inclusion of more countries.
The two neighbours launched the UNITEDengue (UNited In Tackling Epidemic Dengue) network in 2012, to enhance cross-border sharing of dengue surveillance information and dengue control knowledge. It also allows quick detection of a dengue situation in the region, and provides risk alerts of to boost preparedness and enable early intervention before the disease spread.
A Singapore Government statement today said the network has "received the support and concurrence of the ASEAN Health Sector as the platform for sharing of dengue data in the region".
Over 40 per cent of the world's population are now at risk of being infected with dengue, which has become the fastest spreading mosquito-borne disease in the world.
Said the statement: "The dengue situation in Singapore and Malaysia mirrors that of the global situation, with both countries facing increasing challenges in the fight on dengue. In 2013, Malaysia recorded over 43,000 cases with 92 deaths, whilst Singapore reported over 22,000 cases with seven deaths."
"This year, the number of cases in Malaysia has surpassed historical records while Singapore continues to see high case numbers, and both countries remain in the peak dengue season," it added.
It noted that the virus serotype surveillance under the UNITEDengue collaboration has shown that the 2013 outbreaks in Malaysia and Singapore were associated with a switch in the predominant virus serotypes.
In Singapore, the predominantly circulating virus serotype switched from DENV-2 to DENV-1 at the beginning of 2013. However, Malaysia saw an increase in the dominance of DENV-2 cases.
The prevalence of DENV-2 in Malaysia is most evident in the southern states of Johor and Malacca, where the proportion of DENV-2 among the circulating viruses rose from 70 to 90 per cent since August 2013.
Of concern is that the fatality rates of 0.5 per cent in these two states were higher, compared to the whole of Malaysia and Selangor (0.19 per cent and 0.09 per cent respectively).
While the association of the DENV-2 dominance with higher reported fatality causes concern, the reasons for their association remain unclear. It could be inherent in the strain, or due to secondary infections following previous infections by DENV-1 or DENV-3. Such increased severity has been previously observed in dengue epidemics in other countries, such as Cuba and Brazil.
In Singapore, close monitoring of virus serotypes by the authorities has shown that while DENV-1 remains the predominant virus, there has been an increasing number of DENV-2 cases since July this year.
Said the statement: "Singapore is watching this development closely, as the spread of the DENV-2 virus may result in a serotype switch, which could potentially lead to a new wave of infections. Clusters with mixed virus strains are more challenging to control, as immunity to one serotype does not mean immunity to the other serotypes."
Malaysia is also monitoring the presence of the DENV-1 virus that caused the Singapore outbreaks in 2013 and 2014. Outbreak of the virus is not common in Malaysia, although there were periodic cases.
Regardless of the prevalent virus strain, everyone must play their part to help stem dengue transmission by checking their premises daily for potential mosquito breeding habitats and removing them.
Those infected with dengue should protect themselves from mosquito bites by applying repellent as regularly as possible. People showing symptoms suggestive of dengue should see a doctor early.