Saturday, September 10, 2005

Does the Singapore government think it is possible to make Singapore dengue-free?

To: Mr S Satish Appoo, NEA
Ms Karen Tan, MOH

cc: Dr Yaacob Ibrahim, Minister for the Environment and Water Resources

Date: 9 Sept 2005

I refer to your letter to the Today newspaper, 9 Sept 2005 as attached.

I believe that lately, with increased awareness and concern, many suggestions have been put forward by various parties (mine included) in the fight against dengue, and understandably, not all are expected to be adopted. However, at the end of the day, what matters to all Singaporeans and residents is the ability of the government (NEA, MOH, etc.) to eradicate this menace. So, whichever strategies the NEA and MOH choose to fight the problem, that's fine as long as Singapore achieves dengue-free status. I am sure NEA has its own Key Performance Indicators KPIs (whether half the infection rate within 3 months or whatever), but as far as I am concerned, I will deem the fight to be a failure if we are unable to achieve zero-infection within the next 6 months or a year at the very most.

Please bear in mind this menace has been around for quite some time but yet, Singapore, despite the "small" area (hence managability) and its efficiency and ability to come up with usually reliable strategies, has not been able to overcome this tiny "vampire", (unlike Sars which came out of the blue but yet, we managed to lick it within 6 months). What made the difference during Sars then was not just the efforts of all, but also the decisive and quick actions taken by the government, including legislation where necessary. If legislation is necessary in our current fight against dengue, then so be it, but just don't wait too long. I am sure the government doesn't want to see more lives lost to dengue just because it failed to implement measures early enough!

Jeff Ho

Today (9 Sept 2005)
Where dengue and Sars differ ...
Isolating dengue patients is ineffective, but like Sars, everyone has a part to play

Letter from S SATISH APPOO
Head, Environmental Health Department, National Environment Agency (NEA)
KAREN TAN (MS) Director, Corporate Communications, Ministry of Health (MOH)

In "Dengue: Fight it the Sars way" (Sept 1), Mr Jeffrey Ho asked for drastic Sars measures to tackle the recent increase in dengue cases.

.We share Mr Ho's concerns over the increase in dengue cases and would like to assure him that the Government will spare no effort to tackle the dengue menace.

.We would like to explain that unlike the case of Sars, isolating dengue patients is ineffective in controlling the spread of dengue.

.Dengue patients may be infective before the onset of symptoms and many infected with the dengue virus may show no symptoms at all. The key to dengue control is, thus, the elimination of the Aedes mosquito to break the chain of transmission.

.Nevertheless, some of the insights obtained during Sars remain relevant. A central aspect of our approach to battling Sars was the recognition that everyone in Singapore had a role to play.

.Likewise, dengue control has been a partnership effort by Government agencies, companies and the community alike.

.It is of utmost importance that this collaboration is sustained.

.Houseowners, whether they live in landed properties or flats, can do their bit to prevent mosquito breeding by clearing blockages from roof gutters, clearing leaves and stagnant water from drains, removing water from potted plants daily, avoiding the use of pot plates and changing the water in vases everyday.

.Town Councils can also do the same in public areas in housing estates; likewise, school administrators for school properties.

.Developers and land owners need to periodically clear vacant land, while contractors need to continue their effort to check for potential mosquito breeding habitats in construction sites.

.At the same time, those suspected or confirmed with dengue can also help stop the virus from being further transmitted to their family and loved ones by using repellent during the fever stage.

.The NEA has expanded its efforts in mosquito surveillance and control, working with the variousland agencies, Town Councils and facility management to step up checks.

.The MOH is undertaking epidemiological surveillance of dengue patients, working closely with GPs and polyclinics to report possible new cases.

.This allows us to track the development of active dengue clusters, which enables teams to quickly checkfor new breeding locations. We have also published maps on the MOH and the NEA's websites to better inform Singaporeans of the location of dengue cases.

.The most effective weapon against dengue fever today is for all Singaporeans to deny the mosquito a place to breed. Working together, just like we did during Sars, would help us to win this battle against dengue fever.


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