Dengue cases expected to rise with mosquito population up 30%

More people working from home could mean more "biting opportunities" for Aedes mosquito: NEA

Dengue cases here are expected to increase, as the population of the Aedes aegypti mosquito - which transmits dengue and other viruses - has grown by about 30 per cent in April, compared with in January, said the National Environment Agency (NEA) yesterday.

The mosquito population has remained high in some residential areas, including Clementi West Street 1, Hougang Avenue 6, 8 and 10, Jurong East Street 32, Mei Chin Road, Mei Ling Street and Stirling Road.

More than 2,700 dengue cases have been reported since the start of the year, and there are currently 22 active dengue clusters.

Although there have been fewer dengue cases in recent weeks than in the same period last year - when a historic outbreak of dengue occurred in Singapore - the figures remain higher than those of 2017 and 2018.

There were 35,315 reported dengue cases last year, with 28 deaths.

"As we have now entered the warmer months of the year from June to October, the increased risk of higher dengue transmission is a concern," NEA said.

NEA added that since the Covid-19 phase two (heightened alert) measures kicked in on May 16, more people staying in and working from home could mean more "biting opportunities" for the day-biting Aedes aegypti mosquito, and a potentially higher risk of dengue transmission.

Last August, a study examining the impact of the circuit breaker on the number of dengue infections found there were 50 per cent more cases than usual.

The study, conducted in collaboration with the National University of Singapore's Saw Swee Hock School of Public Health, also found that adults aged 20 to 64 made up the majority of infection cases, since this segment of the population would have normally been in the workplace during the day.

In addition, more than half of positive dengue samples since February were due to the less common dengue serotypes 3 (DenV-3) and 4 (DenV-4).

Serotypes are distinct variations within a particular virus. There are four dengue serotypes: DenV-1, 2, 3 and 4. The predominant dengue virus serotype in Singapore has been DenV-2 since 2016.

NEA said since DenV-3 has not been dominant for about the last three decades and the incidence rate of DenV-4 has also been consistently low, the population immunity for both serotypes is low, meaning people are more likely to get infected.

However, it added, it is too early to say that there has been a switch in the dominant dengue virus serotype in Singapore.

The DenV-3 serotype has been detected in the dengue cluster in Cashew Terrace and Hazel Park Terrace, while DenV-4 has been detected in clusters in Hougang Central and Pasir Ris Street 21.

"If left unchecked, the high Aedes aegypti mosquito population, coupled with the circulation of previously uncommon dengue virus serotypes and a sizeable proportion of people... working from home, would add to the dengue risk this year," said NEA.

It urged people to prevent mosquito breeding by ensuring stagnant water is removed.

In the meantime, NEA will continue to conduct inspections in areas with a higher mosquito population, and has stepped up its operations in dengue cluster areas.