Residents in dengue hot spots taking more precautions
Resident in dengue hot spot now more vigilant after teen son contracted dengue
She received a WhatsApp message from her friend on Wednesday last week informing her of the number of dengue cases in her neighbourhood.
She ignored it.
The next day, one of her three sons had an unusually high fever and was later diagnosed with dengue.
The 47-year-old housewife, Ms Ivy Tan, told The New Paper in Mandarin on Wednesday: "I really didn't expect my own son to have dengue... I regret being so careless."
TNP visited two active dengue hot spots - Yishun Avenue 4 and Admiralty Drive - and found a number of households taking extra precautions to make sure dengue does not spread to them.
NEA considers both areas as red-zoned hot spots, which are high-risk areas with 10 or more dengue cases.
Yishun Avenue 4 has had 11 dengue cases since the start of the cluster while Admiralty Drive has had 67 cases.
Ms Ivy Tan lives in Block 658, Yishun Avenue 4, which has had six dengue cases.
Her middle son, Zhengda, 13, was one of them. She has two other sons, aged 10 and 15.
Last Thursday, Zhengda had rashes and a high fever that hovered around 39 deg C.
Ms Tan took him to Yishun Polyclinic and was told by the doctors that he had flu.
However, he was in so much discomfort that she insisted the doctor do a blood test.
"His condition wasn't getting better and I needed to know exactly whatthe problem was.
"The worst part was that none of us suspected it was dengue, he didn't complain of mosquito bites - it just hits you when you least expect it to.
"I think this is a good lesson learnt because we are now more conscious of dengue and what it can do," she said.
BACK IN SCHOOL
Ms Tan even moved Zhengda out of his elder brother's bedroom, where he usually sleeps, and into her bedroom for five nights.
Zhengda has recovered and is back in school.
The family also bought two cans of insecticide and has been spraying often in dark corners of the flat.
She said: "We don't want to risk the same thing happening again... I could tell that my son was very uncomfortable from the pain."
Ms Tan hopes her dreadful experience with dengue will be a lesson to others.
She said: "Dengue is a lot more dangerous than we think, and we shouldn't be taking the tiny mosquito lightly.
"Everyone needs to play his part so that nobody gets hurt."
Her neighbour, Ms Vanda Sethi, 45, a private tutor, is also not taking any chances.
She lives with her husband, her elderly parents, aged 78 and 80, and two sons, aged 15 and 18.
Flipping pails upside down and covering empty bamboo pole holders are now part of her daily routine.
She said: "I've heard of people who die of dengue so... I don't want anyone in my family to risk getting dengue."
Another resident in the block, retiree Alice Chua, 69, has been making sure that the rims and surrounding areas of her flower pots are dry.
She said: "I am a little bit worried... but as long as I keep my flat clean, it will be okay."
However, some residents did not seem too concerned.
A designer in his 20s living in Block 467, Admiralty Drive, who wanted to be known only as Benjamin, said: "I'm not too worried since I'm generally healthy.
"If I eat healthy and exercise, I can recover quickly - all will be okay."
"The worst part was that none of us suspected it was dengue, he didn't complain of mosquito bites - it just hits you when you least expect it to."
— Ms Ivy Tan, whose son, 13, contracted dengue
Death toll hits 7
Seven people have died of dengue this year, up from four cases last year.
The latest was a 79-year-old Singaporean man who lived in Eastwood Drive, off Bedok Road. (See report, below.)
So far this year, the number of dengue cases in Singapore has hit 10,101.
This compares with 11,286 cases for the whole of last year.
According to a dengue awareness website by the National Environment Agency (NEA), the numbers are expected to increase in the coming months.
An update on the NEA website said: "As we are in the traditional peak dengue season, we are anticipating an upward trend in the number of dengue cases in the coming months.
"Since April, NEA's Gravitraps data has shown a steady increase in the Aedes aegypti mosquito population in our community and remains high."
There were 222 dengue cases in the week ending July 30.
This makes it the sixth week in a row that there were more than 200 reported dengue cases in a week.
Both dengue and the zika virus are spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, which is easily identified by its black and white stripes.
Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious disease expert from Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, urged Singaporeans to be vigilant and active in removing breeding spots.
He said: "Once you break the breeding cycle, you break a transmission cycle.
"When you kill the bug, you kill dengue as well."
DENGUE DEATHS IN 2016
Seven people have died of dengue this year. Five of them lived in active dengue hot spots.
1. Male, 79
Died: Aug 4
He lived in Eastwood Drive, which is an active cluster, with nine cases in the past two weeks. He was admitted to Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital on July 30 and died on Thursday.
2. Female, 72
Died: June 25
She lived in Simei Street 1, which was a two-case dengue cluster. She spent three days in Changi General Hospital (CGH) before dying from dengue.
3. Male, 79
Died: May 29
He lived in Jalan Tenaga in Eunos. The area was an active dengue cluster and had six cases of dengue.
4. Female, 73
Died: March 24
She lived in Poh Huat Road West, which is near Kovan MRT station. At that time, Kovan was an active four-case dengue cluster. She was admitted to Tan Tock Seng Hospital (TTSH) on March 22 and died two days later.
5. Female, 63
Died: March 10
She was living in Bedok North Street 3, which was not an active dengue cluster.
6. Male, 67
Died: Feb 10
He was admitted to TTSH on Feb 8 and was living in Toa Payoh Lorong 4. It was not an active dengue cluster.
7. Male, 47
Died: Jan 22
He is the youngest person to die of dengue this year. He was living in Marsiling Rise, which was an active 10-case dengue cluster.
Dengue myths and facts
Dr Leong Hoe Nam, an infectious disease expert from Mount Elizabeth Novena Hospital, separates the facts from the myths.
Myth: Dengue affects the elderly more often than younger people aged 45 and below
"The risk of getting the disease is a function of the mosquito, and not the age. It really depends on who the mosquito bites. There is an equal chance for everyone, regardless of age, to contract dengue."
Fact: Dengue affects the elderly more severely than younger people aged 45 and below
"It is common for a young person to have dengue and not know about it, simply because he or she does not show the obvious symptoms.
"The reason more elderly people die of dengue is because their immune system is naturally weak.
"Also, the immune system has to deal with a whole range of other problems - high blood pressure, diabetes and heart disease - which come with age.
"All these existing problems complicate the disease-fighting process in an elderly person and presents a great struggle for an already frail body."
Myth: Dengue affects only certain parts of Singapore, which are the hot spots.
"A person with dengue automatically becomes a mobile hot spot. It is true that if you live in an active dengue cluster, the chances of contracting dengue is higher.
"However, since Singapore is so small, dengue spreads very easily. Just one infected person can transform an area into an active dengue hot spot."
Myth: Mosquito repellant sprays or lotions will keep us safe
"Mosquito repellant helps in reducing mosquito bites and, in turn, the risk of contracting dengue. But many people forget that sweat can wash it off, in which case it becomes ineffective."
Fact: The Aedes aegypti mosquito bites people only in the day.
"Yes, it is a day biter, which is unlike the Anopheles mosquito, a night biter, which spreads malaria."
Myth: You cannot contract dengue twice in a lifetime.
"You can get infected up to four times. There are four strains and Dengue 1 and 2 are more prevalent in Singapore. Hence, patients usually contract it twice. It is only occasionally that one contracts it three times and, very rarely, four times in a lifetime."
"There is an equal chance for everyone, regardless of age, to contract dengue."
- Dr Leong Hoe Nam