SINGAPORE - With yet another life claimed by the dengue scourge just a few days ago, some concerned residents and MPs in Ang Mo Kio are hoping to learn more about the death.
On Sunday, a 60-year-old man died of dengue shock syndrome after being admitted into Tan Tock Seng Hospital for a second time. As of the time of this report, no further details about the victim were released by the National Environment Agency (NEA) and the Ministry of Health (MOH), aside from the fact that he lived in Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3.
An MOH spokesman told The New Paper: "Due to patient confidentiality, MOH will not be able to release the deceased patient's name and address."
The man joins Mr Ang Yong Han, 20, the first casualty in this year's dengue epidemic, expected to be the biggest Singapore has ever experienced. Mr Ang lived in Hougang Avenue 1, which NEA classified as a "dengue cluster".
Fear was apparent among some Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 residents The New Paper spoke to. There were also anxious calls for MOH to shed some light into the details of the second dengue victim.
An NEA officer confirmed yesterday that Ang Mo Kio Avenue 3 is not one of the 52 dengue clusters in Singapore.
Mr Andrew Tan, 48, an engineer, said: "They should say where exactly this man lived and let the public know. This is the second death, and we are all living in fear, so why are they not telling us?"
Contract teacher Lim Wei Shin, 42, said: "(MOH) should let us know. Maybe they have valid concerns, but to me, it is wiser to disclose the information to the public, and let the people decide what actions they want to take."
Another resident who wanted to be known as Mr Chan, 39, said: "Avenue 3 is such a long stretch, why can't MOH just tell us exactly where the man lived?"
The news of a second death has left the service technician paranoid about letting his children play at the playground for fear of them becoming the next dengue victims.
Said Mr Chan: "We keep a lookout for our children especially, and tell them not to go to the playground any more. It is very worrying, because this is the second death (this year) already."
But other residents, like security officer Mohd Osman, 56, felt that the fact that someone died was enough to serve as a warning.
Said Mr Osman: "I understand why the Government didn't reveal the exact block. I think they're just trying to respect their privacy. "People should already start being more careful."
Manager Terence Ho, 36, also felt there was no need to know exactly where the 60-year-old lived.
"I think that since it's a whole region that is affected, revealing the exact block number isn't necessary. But they should, maybe, reveal the first two numbers, so that people have a rough idea of the region that is affected," he said. "And when anyone from that cluster has a fever, they should immediately go to the hospital."
Members of Parliament for Ang Mo Kio GRC told The New Paper that they are waiting, along with the residents, for more details from NEA and MOH.
Mr Seng Han Thong said: "It is good that residents know more about this case, especially the circumstances under which the 60-year-old got infected. The main purpose is to reassure residents and at the same time, create greater awareness among them."
However, the MP acknowledged the need to safeguard the "patient's confidentiality and privacy".
Likewise, Mr Inderjit Singh hoped the relevant agencies would reveal more details.
"We want to reach out to the family to see what we can do to help. We need to know the area so we can focus on addressing any problems," he said.
Mr Singh brought up a dialogue session he had with some residents on Sunday, just before news of the second death broke.
"During the session, the first question was on dengue. I could sense residents were actually anxious and quite concerned."
"Normally, residents don't bring the issue of dengue up. It shows how serious (the situation) has become," said Mr Singh.
The more pertinent question, Mr Seng pointed out, is how a casualty could come from Ang Mo Kio despite it not being a dengue hotspot.
"I trust MOH can shed light on this without compromising privacy," he said.
Calling the death unfortunate, Mr Singh urged Ang Mo Kio residents not to be "complacent".
"Let's all work hard to eliminate the dengue problem," he said.
We speak to Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious disease physician from Rophi Clinic at Mount Elizabeth Novena Specialist Centre, on what to do if you suspect you have dengue fever.
Prior to going into private practice, Dr Leong was a consultant with the Department of Infectious Disease at the Singapore General Hospital.
What should I do if I suspect I have dengue fever?
If there is a concern for dengue fever (an illness transmitted by the Aedes mosquito), you should do the Dengue NS1 antigen test (which involves the drawing of blood). The market rate for the test is about $30.
Where can I get tested other than at hospitals?
The test has been provided to various polyclinics and certain general practitioners at subsidised rates by the National Environment Agency.
What is the turnaround time for the diagnostic test?
The turnaround time can be one to two working days, depending on the time the sample was collected.
What should I do if I have dengue fever?
Drink three litres of fluid on top of your normal fluid intake. Water is cheap and good. Only fluids have been shown to make a difference in saving lives. A good way to find out if you are drinking enough water is to drink until your urine is clear.
Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) issued a media statement about the two dengue deaths at the hospital.
Why aren't dengue patients tested the moment they are admitted?
The dengue virus is usually present between day two and day five of infection.
Dengue antibodies do not rise to detectable levels until day five to day seven of the infection. While the test is available for patients who insist on early testing at the Emergency Department (ED), having it done too early does not give conclusive results.
Testing negative on the first day of the fever does not conclusively exclude the possibility of dengue, but may instead provide "false reassurance" to doctors and patients.
Will all dengue patients be hospitalised?
Not all patients with dengue need to be hospitalised. Patients who present themselves in stable health at the ED may be kept for a few hours of observation and given fluids and medication to relieve their symptoms.
If they do not improve or do not remain stable during the observation, they may be admitted for closer monitoring and treatment.
Otherwise, they will be given fever and other necessary medication, a request to follow-up in one to two days' time for review. They will also be advised to return to us if their symptoms worsen.
What happened to the two patients who died from dengue?
We would like to assure the public that our guidelines, protocols and processes are evidence-based and we follow established standards. We will continue to work on our processes.
As for the second casualty of dengue, the 60-year-old man died in the Intensive Care Unit on Sunday from multi-organ failure and complications associated with abnormal heart rhythm.
He was first admitted on June 5 after a day of fever, general malaise - feeling of discomfort, illness, or lack of well-being - and infection of the leg.
Dengue was confirmed during his second hospitalisation on Friday and we continued with the treatment. His condition deteriorated and by the second day of hospitalisation, he had passed away.
Dengue had complicated his infection and his underlying conditions, including diabetes mellitus and hypertension may have contributed to his inability to recover.
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