Monday, 28 July 2014

Door-to-door drive to warn residents about dengue

Over 2,000 volunteers to spread message; number of infections crosses 11,600 mark
By Melissa Lin, The Sunday Times, 27 Jul 2014

More than 2,000 grassroots volunteers will be trained to go door to door and teach residents how to prevent the spread of dengue.

Singapore is in the midst of its peak dengue season, which coincides with the dry months between June and October. There were 520 new cases between last Sunday and 3.30pm last Friday, bringing the tally to more than 11,600 infections this year.

Two deaths have also been reported, with the latest being an 85-year-old man who died last week.

Second Minister for Environment and Water Resources Grace Fu, who launched the nationwide dengue education and prevention drive yesterday, expects the fight against the disease to be "equally challenging" as last year's.

That was when Singapore had its worst dengue epidemic with more than 22,170 people falling ill.

According to the National Environment Agency (NEA) less than two weeks ago, Choa Chu Kang recorded the biggest dengue cluster here with 316 cases - eclipsing the high of 233 infections in a cluster in Tampines last year.

And while weekly dengue cases this year peaked in the first week of this month at 891 cases, numbers may still climb as the coming months are expected to be hot, warned Ms Fu.

The key to preventing the spread of the disease is to ensure small dengue clusters do not grow bigger, she said.

This is where the volunteers can step in, by spreading the message in small dengue clusters, leaving NEA officers to focus their efforts in areas where there are bigger outbreaks.

"As the number of active clusters grows, NEA has to focus on the real big ones, so we need additional and ongoing help from the community," she said, stressing the need to get residents to take charge of cleanliness in their own areas.

"It's important for every one of us to be always on the lookout."

The volunteers, accompanied by at least one NEA officer, will go door to door handing out around 100,000 copies of a checklist across 87 constituencies from now until October.

The checklist comes in the form of a door hanger. It includes steps that residents can take to keep their homes and neighbourhoods mosquito-free, such as turning over unused pails and removing stagnant water. Dengue is a viral infection transmitted by the female Aedes mosquito, and according to NEA, homes are where most mosquito breeding habitats are found.

Yesterday, 300 volunteers from the People's Association's Community Emergency Response Team were taught prevention measures at the anti-dengue drive in Yishun.

Ms Fu, who is also Minister in the Prime Minister's Office and Second Minister for Foreign Affairs, later visited three homes to spread the message.

One of the volunteers, 24-year-old undergraduate Joseph Ong, said raising awareness among his neighbours about dengue benefits him as well.

"If there is a high dengue threat around my home, I won't feel secure either," he said.

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