With the number of dengue cases steadily declining, Singapore looks set to avoid the worst-case scenario of a record 30,000 cases predicted by the authorities at the start of the year, when cases spiked alarmingly.The number of cases this year is at 12,708 as of Wednesday (Nov 23) — worse than the 11,200 last year, but nowhere near the levels in 2013 when the number of cases reached a record 22,170.
The latest weekly figures for reported cases, provided by the National Environment Agency (NEA), showed that there were 72 cases for the week ending Nov 19. The numbers have been falling progressively, from 107 cases for the week ending Oct 22.
Although this period is traditionally low season for mosquitoes, the latest numbers are still lower when compared to the same period in previous years.
Earlier this year, there was an alert from NEA that the number of dengue cases in 2016 may exceed 30,000 “unless immediate action is taken”. Its spokesman said that the Do the Mozzie Wipeout campaign against mosquito-breeding was launched and an inter-agency dengue taskforce was activated to get more public agencies to help monitor breeding sites.
“Since then, we have observed a decline in the case numbers, and these have been fluctuating at fewer than 100 cases per week for the past few weeks,” the spokesperson added.
The authorities also roped in a large number of volunteers to lead the fight on the ground.
In February, the People’s Association said that it had gathered more than 5,000 grassroots leaders and volunteers for house visits, targeting areas with a high number of dengue cases.
In April, the NEA said that it would train 5,000 more dengue-prevention volunteers this year, to nearly double the pool of 5,800 such volunteers who educate the public on getting rid of breeding sites.
There was a S$200 fine implemented earlier this year that penalises home owners if their homes were found to have breeding spots, regardless of whether they are situated in a dengue cluster. Member of Parliament (MP) Louis Ng (Nee Soon GRC) said: “I think the fine made people realise that the crackdown on dengue was getting serious. So, together with the campaigns, more started to take responsibility (to keep) their homes free of breeding grounds.”
Incidentally, the Zika scare and the subsequent control measures also played a part in the fight against dengue. In August, Singapore had its first locally transmitted case of the mosquito-borne Zika virus, and MPs and infectious diseases experts observed that people became more vigilant about clearing potential breeding places in their homes because of this.