Dengue cases soar past 9,000 mark

SINGAPORE - Dengue infections have crossed the 9,000 mark, and more cases are appearing in the western and northern parts of Singapore.

A combination of a hardier virus, low immunity to it in the population, and hot weather appears to be fuelling the spread.

Latest Ministry of Health figures show 656 infections from June 2 to the afternoon of June 7, bringing the total number of cases this year to 9,139.

While the biggest clusters remain in Tampines in the eastern part of the island, more are now in the west and north. Of the 52 clusters, 38 were in areas beyond eastern Singapore.

A dengue cluster is formed when two or more dengue cases occur within two weeks and the victims' homes are within 150m.

Yishun, Boon Lay, Choa Chu Kang, King's Close, Westwood, Serangoon North and the Race Course Road area were among some places on the National Environment Agency's (NEA) list of high-risk areas, with 10 or more cases.

Last weekend, National Environment Agency officers and grassroots members went out in full force to housing estates in the west and north to spread the dengue prevention message. Members of the community also stepped up efforts in various ways.

At a construction site along Lakeside Drive, a station was set up by a construction company for its workers to apply insect repellent.

The Choa Chu Kang Town Council has intensified checks on pump rooms and rooftops of HDB blocks for potential breeding areas, and flushed out drains in estates. Shrubs are also being pruned so that any litter found underneath can be quickly cleared.

At Nee Soon East, dengue prevention volunteer groups have been formed to educate residents, said Nee Soon GRC Member of Parliament Patrick Tay. Dengue prevention tips and reminders are regularly posted using social media.

The message appears to have sunk in. Residents in hot spots Yishun, Jurong West, Choa Chu Kang, and Serangoon North told The Sunday Times they were aware of the growing epidemic and doing their part.

Housewife and mother of three Analiza de la Cruz, 40, who lives in the Yishun hot spot, said she sprays the toilets and rooms of her home with insecticide.

Student James Teoh, 19, who lives in a Choa Chu Kang cluster, said his family members have been emptying water from potted plants. Neighbours have also become more conscious. "They remove canvas sheets from bicycles to prevent water from accumulating," he said.

But eradicating all breeding spots - from parapet walls and roofs, to discarded receptacles, and drains - remains challenging, said Dr Teo Ho Pin, Mayor of North West District and MP for Bukit Panjang, which has one of the new clusters.

"It's very important that everyone is aware," he said.

Additional reporting by Farah Mohd Ismail and Lim Min Zhang

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