Channel NewsAsia
Updated: 04/28/2013 12:32 | By Channel NewsAsia

PM Lee launches national campaign to prevent dengue

PM Lee launches national campaign to prevent dengue

PM Lee launches national campaign to prevent dengue

SINGAPORE: Singapore has launched a national dengue campaign, which calls on everyone in the community to do his or her part to prevent the disease.

Leading the call was Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong when he launched the "Do the Mozzie Wipe Out" in Ang Mo Kio GRC on Sunday. 

Mr Lee was joined by several other ministers and grassroots advisers islandwide to launch the campaign in various constituencies.

The People's Association (PA) and the National Environment Agency (NEA) emphasised that with dengue cases crossing the 500-mark last week, community support is critical for Singapore to break the chain of dengue transmission.

There were 510 cases in the week ending 20 April and this is the highest weekly number recorded since the major outbreak in 2005.

Since the start of this year, there have been a total of 5,230 cases and the figure is more than the total number of cases for the whole of last year, which stands at 4,632.

Speaking at the event at the Kebun Baru division, PM Lee who is also an MP for Ang Mo Kio GRC, said Singapore is having a problem with dengue fever this year and there are several reasons.

Mr Lee said: “Firstly, the weather is changing; sudden rain, hot sun. So it could be the mosquitoes are finding it easier to breed and the dengue virus is spreading more easily.

"Secondly over the last few years, we have been controlling dengue very well, not many cases, and I think (people's) immunity is down. As a result when the virus comes back in a changed form we have no defences and we get sick easily.

"So we must coordinate our response, we need everybody's help and cooperation to keep your homes clean and prevent the mosquitoes from breeding.

"And we are trying to do it nationwide, all the estates, all the towns, all the homes over this weekend and the next few weekends, to try and break the chain of mosquitoes breeding. We can cut down the mosquitoes, then we can cut down the dengue fever cases this year."

In an island-wide effort, the PA and its grassroots movement will be fanning out to both public and private housing estates every week to remind residents to do their part to prevent the spread of dengue.

Working closely with schools, merchant and hawker associations, community partners and government agencies, they will be distributing publicity materials and demonstrating Mozzie Wipeout measures at over 200 community activities.

Volunteers will also be going house-to-house to spread the message and show residents, especially senior citizens, how to prevent and get rid of potential mosquito-breeding sites in their homes, to complement the educational visits that NEA officers have been conducting.

Separately, the NEA said that the dengue strains that are circulating since the start of 2013 seem to exhibit a higher epidemic potential.

NEA has also found higher numbers of breeding spots on the premises.

Against a backdrop of a low immunity amongst the population, this signals a challenging year ahead as NEA expects to enter the dengue peak season with a higher base of cases.

In a separate event at Chua Chu Kang GRC, Health Minister Gan Kim Yong said dengue cases in Singapore take up about one per cent of hospital beds and gave the assurance that hospitals here are ready for any eventuality.

Mr Gan, who was launching the "Do the Mozzie Wipeout" campaign in his constituency, added that doctors in hospitals are being updated on the situation through circulars. And the hospitals are getting ready to meet a possible surge in dengue cases. 

Mr Gan said hospitals do several things, for example, looking at measures that can help them create more temporary bed space.

He said: "They will also be looking at deferring some of the non-urgent surgeries; they are also looking at collaborating with step-down care so that some of the patients who no longer require acute attention may then be transferred to step-down care.

"We are more ready than, with better knowledge of the disease, the hospitalisation rate has been lower than before, so we are able to manage more of them within the community rather than to hospitalise them.

"We are also working with the healthcare sector, the doctors in the frontline, on issues regarding clinical management and those who need to receive medical attention will do so promptly." - CNA/ck/ir

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