Dengue cases 'could top new high of 15,000'

SINGAPORE - SINGAPORE'S dengue toll has climbed above the five-figure mark, with 10,258 patients diagnosed since the start of the year.

And Communicable Disease Centre head Leo Yee Sin warned that the annual number of cases could top 15,000, setting a new record high.

The rise in infections does appear to have plateaued, with 813 last week - two fewer than in the preceding seven days.

But it might be too early to celebrate, as there were 146 cases on Sunday and up to 3pm yesterday - the highest figure seen this year for the start of the week.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan pointed out that "813 is still a large number of patients to have at this stage of the dengue season".

That is because Singapore has just entered the hot season when mosquitoes breed faster and are more able to spread the disease. Historically, the high season for dengue is around July.

He also told The Straits Times last night: "We need to press on with our intensive efforts to overcome this epidemic.

"I am grateful for the volunteers and staff of the National Environment Agency who have been working so hard."

The minister has already warned that Singapore will probably hit 1,000 cases a week fairly soon.

He spoke last Tuesday of his fear that the epidemic, which was centred on the east for the past few months, could shift to the north and west with explosive results.

This is because these areas are densely populated, but fewer people there have immunity against dengue.

There are already signs of such a shift, with large dengue clusters in Yishun, Choa Chu Kang and Jurong West.

People with symptoms of the mosquito-borne disease - such as a sudden onset of fever, head, muscle and joint aches - nausea and vomiting, should seek medical help, even though there is no specific treatment.

If not treated, they can develop dengue shock syndrome which has killed two men so far this year.

Singapore's worst dengue epidemic took place in 2005, when 25 people died and 14,209 cases were recorded.

Doctors stress that people who catch it should drink plenty of water, as the disease can cause fluid from their blood to leak out.

This could lead to a build-up of red blood cells and result in low blood pressure, potentially damaging their organs.

salma@sph.com.sg


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