Tampines block wages war on dengue

SINGAPORE - There is a war being fought at Block 267, Tampines Street 21. Residents are locking up their children, tracking the enemy and stocking up on repellents.

With 32 cases in the block, the highest currently in Singapore, Block 267 has become a prime battleground in the fight against the dengue fever epidemic.

"I have a friend from a nearby block who got dengue three weeks ago, but thankfully he recovered," said Mr Mohamad Noor Kasmadi, 63, who admitted he was worried.

The retiree bought anti-dengue spray and insecticide, which he puts on his potted plants.

Housewife Kavitha Iyer, 33, now keeps her five-year-old daughter indoors more. "There are fewer children at the playground," she said.

Her neighbour, Mrs Rebecca Law, 36, sprays her three young sons with repellent before they leave the house.

She also shuts her bedroom windows in the early evening to prevent mosquitoes from invading her home. Peak biting time is in the early morning, between 6am and 8am, and late afternoon or sunset, between 4 pm to 6pm.

Singapore's dengue fever epidemic is in its 12th week, with weekly infection cases at a six-year high. The worst-hit places are in Tampines, including Blocks 271, 867 and 867A.

But Block 267 remains the biggest worry. One resident, retiree Albert Lee, 64, told The Straits Times he has seen officers from the National Environment Agency (NEA) combing the area almost every day in recent weeks.

The NEA will visit each unit in Block 267 today to put insecticide in specific areas of homes, as part of a process known as ultra-low-volume misting. Mosquito traps there showed adult Aedes mosquitoes were still present, it said in a notice to residents.

Some residents think the cause of the dengue outbreak is the stagnant water in potted plants at corridors, as well as in plants in a nearby green plot.

One resident has even taken to chronicling everything, from photos of mosquitoes that have bitten her and her husband to the arrival of NEA officers, on her Facebook page. Ms Fionna Zhang, 48, also speaks to neighbours to educate them about the different dengue strains. "I'm trying to help create greater awareness and knowledge, as some people I've spoken to don't know that even if you've recovered from dengue, you can still be reinfected with a different strain," said the banker.

Based on the latest figures on the NEA's website, she also manually updates the agency's notices plastered at the lift lobby, which state the number of dengue cases in different blocks in the area.

Over in Serangoon Gardens, the fourth-biggest cluster with 19 cases, residents were also taking more precautions.

The area covers Bridport Avenue and Cowdray Avenue, which have 13 cases altogether, as well as Portchester Avenue, Kingswear Avenue and Hemsley Avenue.

Cowdray Avenue resident Tan Poh Suan, 53, said that she, her husband and son were once bitten, twice shy. After all three got dengue last month, they now take extra precautions like spraying and wearing mosquito repellent.

"We told our neighbours about the dengue so that they'd be more cautious too," said the housewife.

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