Uptick in dengue fever cases

Dengue fever cases are creeping up again as Singapore enters the traditional peak season, with the number of reported cases exceeding 200 a week for the fourth week in a row.

There were 223 cases of the mosquito-borne virus reported last week, slightly down from 246 the week before.

A 72-year-old woman in Simei on June 25 became the sixth victim this year to succumb to dengue here. Last year, four people died from the virus.

The National Environment Agency (NEA) and Ministry of Health (MOH) said in a joint statement on Sunday that they are "anticipating an upward trend in the number of dengue cases in the coming months".

Since April, the NEA has observed 50 per cent more Aedes mosquitoes, which spread the virus, caught in its Gravitraps islandwide.

A total of 9,641 cases have already been reported this year. Over all of last year, just over 11,200 people were diagnosed with dengue.

The NEA said in February that it anticipates the number of cases this year could exceed 30,000 - higher than the historic 22,170 cases reported in 2013.

The year started with cases at an unusual high, at one point surpassing 600 a week in January despite it being the traditional low season for dengue.

Efforts to stem the spread of the virus brought down the number of cases, which fell to a low of 158 in the second week of June. But the past few weeks seem to have given rise to a resurgence once more.

The Asian Dengue Vaccination Advocacy, a scientific group of dengue experts across South-east Asia including Singapore, said they expect the recent "alarming rise" in cases to continue, partly due to climate change.

They added: "The spike in cases cannot be seen in isolation as factors such as large-scale urbanisation make it easy for the Aedes mosquito to breed."

There are now 44 active dengue clusters in Singapore, down from 49 last week.

Of these, eight are classified as high-risk.

The biggest is the Dunbar Walk-Telok Kurau cluster, where 70 cases have been reported since the cluster started, 12 of these in the past two weeks.

The next largest are the Jalan Ismail-Lorong Marican cluster in Eunos, which has had 49 cases, and Admiralty Drive-Sembawang Drive, which has had 48.

Of the six people who died from dengue this year, three were in their 70s and two in their 60s. The youngest was a 47-year-old man who lived in Marsiling Rise.

Infectious diseases expert Leong Hoe Nam from Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital noted that the elderly tend to be more susceptible to the dengue virus, especially if they have existing conditions such as lung or heart problems, or weaker immune systems.

"These people should not take any additional stress and dengue can be the final straw that pushes them over," he said.


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