Dengue danger: 7,000 cases already

SINGAPORE - Singapore's dengue epidemic is showing no signs of easing and has hit 7,000 infections so far this year.

More worryingly, infection numbers for each new week are continuing to escalate, reaching a six-year high.

Latest figures show 562 cases in the second week of this month. For the six days from last Sunday to Friday, 510 people were diagnosed - Saturday's figure was not available. This is up sharply from weekly infections earlier in the year.

There are usually fewer than 100 infections a week this early in the year. And with the warmer mid-year months still to come, the outbreak could worsen further.

Heat shortens the Aedes mosquito's growth process, which could send it into breeding mode more quickly, the National Environment Agency has warned.

The latest figures show that, contrary to recent concerns, construction sites comprise only about 5 per cent of mosquito breeding grounds found.

Rather, people are likely to be infected by mosquitoes bred either in their own homes or those of their neighbours, the NEA's deputy director Tang Choon Siang said. These account for up to 70 per cent of breeding grounds.

But builders are doing their part to tackle the dengue scourge as well. This weekend, workers will scour more than 150 worksites for breeding mosquitoes, in an effort organised by the Singapore Contractors Association Limited.

Experts have expressed concern that this year's outbreak could outstrip 2005's, the previous record, which hit 14,000 people, killing 25.

There have been no deaths so far this year.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan warned last month that it was only a matter of time before the epidemic moves west across the island, from the east where the worst dengue clusters lie.

The NEA has reacted by waiting just a week instead of two to forcibly enter homes in dengue hot spots if residents do not allow them in to check for breeding sites.

The agency has also intensified its efforts to check homes, parks and drains, especially in hot spots, the largest two of which are in Tampines.

Sixteen clusters are currently labelled "high-risk", a slight drop from 19 a week ago.

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