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  Channel NewsAsia 23 Oct 07
Overall dengue situation has improved but weekly cases still high

Straits Times 9 Oct 07
Dengue spread contained in Bukit Batok

Biggest cluster declared 'closed' after no new case for two weeks
By Arti Mulchand

THE spread of dengue in Bukit Batok has finally been contained.

With last Thursday marking two weeks since the last reported dengue case in the housing estate in western Singapore, the National Environment Agency (NEA) has declared this dengue cluster 'closed'.

Bukit Batok residents have been hit with 117 cases, endured 15 rounds of door-to-door checks and been the site of four missions to search and destroy breeding habitats of the dengue-spreading Aedes aegypti mosquito.

The Bukit Batok cluster holds the dubious record in having had the most cases, which took 84 days to bring under control.

Thirty-four blocks were hit, and although the illness did not kill anyone there, one of the 117 cases was the more serious dengue haemorrhagic fever, which can be fatal.

In just under three months, 61 breeding spots were found in homes; 10 outdoor breeding sites were found.

A massive publicity effort was mounted with banners, posters and fliers; even getai singers helped spread the word during the Chinese Seventh Month concerts, and the area's 235 clinics were roped in for diagnosing the disease sooner.

The situation could have been worse if not for timely intervention: When the NEA swept the area the fourth time, seven more breeding sites were found in the 36 blocks surrounding the cluster.

Word of the containment of the disease came as a relief to residents like Mrs S.K. Chan, who lives in Block 353, among the blocks badly hit. She said:

'We were really concerned because my neighbours were getting it but we could not figure out where it was coming from.'

The area's Member of Parliament, Dr Amy Khor, is also breathing easier.

From her door-to-door visits to residents, she found that although the majority of residents said they were doing their part to guard against breeding the mosquito, some were indignant or even complacent.

She recalled that, amid the worry that breeding spots were still being missed, one resident felt he had been unfairly fined for breeding the mosquito; others felt invincible, even as neighbours kept falling ill.

Scientists from the Environmental Health Institute, NEA's research arm, explained that Bukit Batok was susceptible this time around because few people there had prior exposure to dengue. Before 2004, the area had never hosted a cluster, and saw fewer than 30 cases during each outbreak.

The Aedes aegypti mosquito population has also grown substantially in recent years. In 2003, under 1 per cent of mosquitoes in the area were Aedes aegypti. Now, the figure is over 65 per cent.

Island-wide, 7,315 people have so far fallen ill with dengue this year. Eight have died.

In 32 areas, the disease is still spreading. Three have at least 10 cases: Ang Mo Kio Avenue 4, Pipit Road/Paya Lebar Way/Circuit Road, and Pasir Panjang Road/Neo Pee Teck Lane/Clementi Road.

The weekly numbers have continued to fall. Last week, it was 176.

While the worst seems to be over, it is not time for anyone to be letting down their guard, said Dr Khor, who is Senior Parliamentary Secretary for Environment and Water Resources.

She added: 'Dengue is endemic to Singapore, so the end of the hot months does not mean the end of dengue.'

Channel NewsAsia 23 Oct 07
Overall dengue situation has improved but weekly cases still high

SINGAPORE : The overall dengue situation in Singapore has improved in recent weeks, but Parliamentary Secretary for Environment Amy Khor said the current number of weekly cases at just below 200 is still high.

Dr Khor said the cluster of dengue fever outbreak in Bukit Batok, which was for a while the worst affected area, would not have been so prolonged from July to September, if residents had been more vigilant.

She was responding to a question by MP Dr Lim Wee Kiak in Parliament on the dengue situation in Bukit Batok.

She cautioned that dengue is endemic in Singapore, and an outbreak can happen whether or not it is the peak season.

Dr Khor listed some of the "valuable" lessons from the Bukit Batok episode, and she urged residents and all stakeholders to "deny mosquitoes of the opportunity to breed".

She said: "It is critical that Town Councils take every measure to ensure proper maintenance and effective checks of common areas and structures under their charge to prevent creating conditions favourable for mosquito breeding. This is especially important for estates with ongoing dengue transmission.

"For example, at Bukit Batok, water ponding was found in pump rooms due to leaky water pipes and poor gradient of the floor. Breeding was also detected in water tanks as a result of damaged mosquito netting. Such lapses can be prevented by putting in place a robust maintenance and inspection regime.

"Residents and HDB shop owners can play a part by refraining from cluttering common corridors with potted plants and bulky items, placing items over scupper drains or concrete drain slabs outside their premises.

"Bad housekeeping not only gives rise to potential breeding habitats, but also hampers inspection by the NEA (National Environment Agency) or the Town Council." - CNA/ms

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