Parliament: $2.5m a year to tackle mozzie problem

An environmental health officer looking for potential mosquito breeding spots.
PHOTO: The Straits Times

The total number of dengue cases this year is expected to be high, with cases spiking earlier than usual, cautioned Environment and Water Resources Minister Masagos Zulkifli yesterday.

This is because of the change in the main circulating dengue serotype and an increase in the Aedes mosquito population, he said in Parliament yesterday in response to a question from Ang Mo Kio MP Gan Thiam Poh.

Source reduction remains the most effective way of fighting dengue, said Mr Masagos.

He added current penalties have been effective in keeping re-offending rates low.

Under the Control of Vectors and Pesticides Act, households within dengue clusters found with breeding habitats can be fined up to $5,000.

Besides checking homes, the National Environment Agency (NEA) has also intensified checks in other areas, including construction sites. They have taken stern action against those found breeding mosquitoes.

Last year, more than 900 Notices to Attend Court were issued to construction site contractors. At least 100 court prosecutions were taken against contractors for repeat offences and more than 100 Stop Work Orders were issued to construction sites in the same period.

Mr Masagos added that $2.5 million is set aside every year to conduct research on controlling the mosquito population and dengue surveillance.

Additional funds have also been committed to develop a method that can prevent mosquito eggs from hatching.

ZIKA VIRUS

As for Mr Gan's concern of a possible Zika virus outbreak in Singapore, Mr Masagos said the Health Ministry is working with NEA to enhance ongoing laboratory surveillance of sample Zika infections.

The Zika virus, linked to babies with birth defects, is a notifiable disease under the Infectious Diseases Act, he pointed out.

"The Zika virus is also transmitted by the same type of mosquitoes that transmit dengue. Therefore, whatever we do for dengue, if we are effective, will be effective also to prevent Zika from spreading," he added.

He also urged everyone to play their part as understanding dengue breeding will make a "real impact" on reducing the dengue threat.

This article was first published on January 28, 2016. Get The New Paper for more stories.