Worse is yet to come in dengue epidemic

SINGAPORE - Singapore has "reached a critical juncture" in the progress of the current dengue epidemic.

Environment and Water Resources Minister Vivian Balakrishnan said the situation has worsened, with a record 820 cases hit last week - "the highest ever recorded in Singapore's history".

"This surpasses even the peak that occurred during the previous big epidemic in 2007," Dr Balakrishnan added.

He said the prediction for this week, ending June 15, would be 960 cases.

Two Singaporeans have died due to dengue in the past three weeks.

The first victim, Mr Ang Yong Han, 20, died on May 29, while the second, an unnamed 60-year-old man, died on Sunday.

Dr Balakrishnan said his ministry's assessment is that the dengue numbers are "going to continue to increase for the time being".

Giving an update on Singapore's latest dengue situation and its control measures at a media conference yesterday, Dr Balakrishnan attributed the worsening situation to four factors - the mosquito, virus, human immunity and weather.

He said although the current epidemic is still predominantly in the east, the Aedes Aegypti is also "well-established in the western part of Singapore".

"In a sense, you have a situation that's prime to unwind itself," he said.

Researchers also found that the current Dengue serotype 1 possesses very high potential for replication, rendering it as having higher epidemic potential.

Also in the past six to seven years, the prevailing Dengue strain here was Dengue serotype 2.

Said Dr Balakrishnan said: "Most of us do not have immunity against Dengue serotype 1, so in the face of an emerging onslaught, we have a population that is vulnerable."

Coupled with the hot and wet weather, which helps accelerate the life cycle of the mosquito and create conducive conditions for it to breed, there is a need for everyone to be vigilant.

Dr Balakrishnan said: "Six weeks ago, I said I was worried that the number was going to go past a thousand. Unfortunately, I might be right."

WEEKLY DENGUE CASES

820 June 2-8 (highest recorded in S'pore so far)

960 June 9-15 (projected)

juditht@sph.com.sg


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