32 dengue cases in just one Tampines block

SINGAPORE - FOUR times a day, Madam Muayanah arms herself with a can of insecticide and walks around her four-room flat, spraying all the nooks and crannies.

She also makes sure there are mosquito coils burning in every room.

When her family goes out, she makes sure they have insect repellant patches on.

It may seem that the 33-year-old housewife is paranoid, but with good reason.

She lives in Block 267, Tampines St 21 - ground zero for the most active dengue cluster in Singapore.

There have been 32 cases since Feb 16 this year.

National Environment Agency (NEA) figures show that the cluster in Tampines has seen 122 reported cases of dengue so far this year, the most of any cluster.

Madam Muayanah's daughter, who is in Primary 1, was hospitalised for eight days with dengue fever two weeks ago, after she was bitten by a mosquito.

Madam Muayanah estimated that she has spent about $2,000 on her daughter's medical bills.

"After my daughter got dengue, I became scared. Every day, I apply repellent on her before she goes to school. I also spray the house three, four times day," said Madam Muayanah, who lives in the flat with her husband and two other children.

She said she does not even feel safe anymore without the smell of mosquito coil in her fourth storey flat.

Singapore's dengue epidemic is climbing, with weekly infection cases at a six-year high.

This is more than double the figures seen in the first three months of the last three years.

So far this year, about 3,000 people have been infected by the mosquito-borne disease, but there have been no deaths so far.

Last week, 308 people were diagnosed.

As of Tuesday, another 114 came down with the disease.

When The New Paper team walked into Block 267 in Tampines on Wednesday, there was a familiar smell of burning mosquito coils wafting through the corridors.

Mrs Betty Goh, a 76-year-old retiree who lives on the fifth storey, said: "In a way all of us are afraid, we try not to get exposed to gardens and trees.

"We even cut off the top of our plants to prevent mosquitoes from breeding there," she said, believing that mosquitoes like green spaces.

A man, who only gave his name only as Mr P. S. Lim echoed the residents' fears.

"Of course we are worried, the number (of dengue cases) are always on the rise," said the 57-yearold, who works in the food and beverage industry.

"We are particularly worried about the elderly and kids. They are a vulnerable group," said Mr Lim.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) had sent about 50 officers over the past six weeks to carry out daily search and destroy rounds within the cluster.

Wider buffer

A spokesman for the NEA said checks were extended to another 20 blocks outside the two biggest clusters, creating a wider buffer to prevent further spread.

Other Inter-Agency Dengue Task Force members, such as the national water agency PUB and Tampines Town Council are flushing out roadside drains and stepping up the removal of discarded receptacles that may collect water.

According to NEA, there were 122 cases of dengue in seven clusters as of last Friday, the biggest of which - with 71 cases - was in the area bordered by Tampines Street 12, Street 21 and Street 22.

The second-biggest cluster, with 34 cases, was bordered by Tampines Streets 71, 82, 83 and 84. There were also five smaller clusters with fewer than five cases each in the Tampines housing neighbourhood with a total of 17 cases between them.

NEA spokesman said a total of 91 breeding areas were detected across all seven clusters, of which 70 were residential homes.

Those responsible for breeding mosquitoes were issued fines.

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