Singapore typically faces a spike in dengue cases between May and October, as a result of the warm conditions that perpetuate the breeding of Aedes mosquitoes. Cases of the virus have risen in recent years, necessitating a response from the country’s government and efforts to mitigate its mosquito population. Several efforts are underway to help curb the spread of dengue in Singapore.
What is Dengue?
Dengue fever is characterized by symptoms such as headaches, nausea and vomiting, rashes and aching. The disease is spread through the bite of infected Aedes mosquitos. While it does not spread directly from person to person, a mosquito may become a carrier if it draws blood from a person infected with dengue.
The disease is best prevented by anti-mosquito measures, such as repellents and nets. However, Singapore is currently experimenting with new methods to help control the country’s mosquito population.
Recently, Singapore’s Environmental Health Institute has developed a program involving the release of lab-grown mosquitos infected with a bacteria called Wolbachia. These male mosquitoes can reproduce with females, but the eggs will not hatch. This strategy has been shown to suppress mosquito populations within a given area. As a result, the spread of dengue in Singapore should be mitigated.
Another method that Singapore’s National Environmental Agency is deploying against mosquito populations is known as fogging. In this process, insecticide is released as a mist in an effort to control a large mosquito population in a dengue cluster. However, it is worth noting that this process does not eliminate the source of the population, and overuse may lead to insecticide-resistant mosquitoes.
Along with these initiatives, several organizations are working alongside the government to help slow the spread of the virus. In 2022, the non-profit group Temasek Foundation partnered with the NEA to provide mosquito repellent to all students in Singapore. This effort was made to counter the spread of dengue through infected mosquitos. Overall, repellent was provided for more than 800,000 students.
In order to combat the spread of dengue, several grassroots organizations have volunteered their efforts. These community-led efforts help to raise awareness about mosquito mitigation tactics, as well as inform the public on the symptoms and risks of dengue.
These community efforts included door-to-door visits in areas with a high dengue concentration. Volunteer groups from Singapore’s People’s Association, a government program with a large network of community-based organizations, contributed to this campaign.
Reduction in Dengue Cases
In 2023, cases of dengue in Singapore have dropped significantly. The WHO reports a 72% decrease in cases compared to this time last year. While there is still room for improvement, these numbers are a relatively good omen for the warmer season, taking into account last year’s outbreak. It appears as though the efforts of the NEA have not been in vain, and may have made a meaningful difference in the reduction of infected mosquito populations.
– Mary Burke