Dengue cases up again, chikungunya still high

SINGAPORE - The dreaded dengue is on the rise again after being on the decline for almost two months.

There were 386 cases last week and between Sunday and 3pm yesterday, another 382 people have come down with the disease.

The numbers indicate that the increase is likely to continue, with a Health Ministry spokesman noting on Friday that "we are still in the midst of the dengue season".

The season ends with the cooler months from October. In the hot season from June till September, the dengue-causing Aedes mosquito breeds faster, hastening the spread of the disease.

This year's dengue outbreak is the worst ever, with a record 15,700 people being stricken by the deadly disease so far this year. The previous peak was in 2005 when 14,209 people were infected for the whole year and 25 died.

This year, five men aged between 20 and 86 have died from dengue. At its height in June, 842 people were infected in one week. But the number had gone down since to 256 cases a week early last month.

It has climbed again.

However, infectious disease expert Indumathi Venkatachalam of the National University Hospital (NUH) felt the rise "is unlikely to be the beginning of a second wave and is likely to resolve".

She added that such "blips" are not uncommon for an endemic infection.

While the number of cases in the eastern part of Singapore is still high, especially in Tampines, clusters are now almost everywhere, from Woodlands to Jurong as well as in the city in Orange Grove Road.

Another Aedes mosquito-borne disease that continues to remain high is chikungunya, with 546 locally infected cases. Last week, 37 people in Singapore were infected.

Both diseases share near-similar symptoms, including body ache, headache, nausea, vomiting, rash and joint pain.

Effects of chikungunya, however, tend to last much longer. But they are rarely fatal.

Singapore has hitherto succeeded in preventing the virus from becoming endemic here, the way dengue is. But it may not last.

Said Dr Venkatachalam: "We have the vector (mosquito), the virus (chikungunya) and a susceptible host (non-immune population). As long as these three factors remain, there is a risk of the disease establishing itself here."

The ministry spokesman said more than 80 per cent of the cases this year are in the Bukit Timah and Sungei Kadut/Kranji areas.

The rest are scattered, with small clusters of infections in places such as Paya Lebar, Woodlands and Kay Siang Road.

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