Govt going all out to fight dengue epidemic

SINGAPORE - Mosquitoes have become Singapore's No. 1 public enemy, with the Government going all out to pull the brakes on the dengue scourge.

Over 30,000 People's Association volunteers were mobilised yesterday in a national campaign to get members of the public to do their part to stamp out dengue.

Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong and Cabinet ministers launched the campaign.

As part of the Do The Mozzie Wipeout campaign in the coming weeks, volunteers will distribute dengue-prevention materials and demonstrate preventive measures at over 200 community activities.

Besides looking out for potential mosquito-breeding grounds in their neighbourhoods, they will go on weekly house visits to show residents - especially senior citizens - how they can prevent and get rid of such sites in their homes.

The move comes after the number of dengue cases topped 5,200 this year, surpassing the 4,632 cases for the whole of last year.

In the week ending April 20, there was a record number of 510 dengue cases, the highest weekly number since 2005's major outbreak.

According to the Ministry of Health (MOH), once the number of dengue cases a week goes beyond 165, there is a dengue epidemic.

To step up the fight, the National Environment Agency (NEA) said yesterday that it will break into homes in dengue hot spots after a week, instead of the usual two, if their officers are not let in, The Straits Times reported.

The NEA has awarded a contract worth up to $10 million to advertising firm DDB Worldwide for year-round campaigns against the disease, The Straits Times said last Saturday.

The agency said on April 17 it would recruit 200 volunteers - on top of its 800 officers - to conduct house visits to inform residents of the dengue severity in their estates, and encourage them to take dengue-prevention steps.

Health Minister Gan Kim Yong, who launched the Chua Chu Kang GRC anti-dengue campaign, said the number of dengue cases is expected to rise, but hospitals are "getting ready" to manage this.

Minister for the Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan, who launched the Holland-Bukit Timah GRC campaign, warned that it could be Singapore's worst dengue epidemic with possibly more than 1,000 infections a week at its height, The Straits Times reported.

But if Singapore is hit by outbreaks of both dengue and the potentially-fatal H7N9 bird flu, an MOH spokesman told My Paper that hospitals would look into ways to free up beds for patients.

These include actively reviewing and discharging medically-stable patients to step-down care settings, or back home with transitional-care support. If necessary, elective operations might be deferred, too.

The MOH spokesman said: "Arrangements could be made to optimise the deployment of critical manpower, such as nursing staff, among the public hospitals, based on the manpower needs."

Get My Paper for more stories.