On 25 September 2020, I highlighted that dengue is on the rise and that we should fight this dreaded disease together. On 14 October 2020, I read that dengue has claimed its 28th victim. This makes the death toll from dengue exactly that of Covid-19. And while daily statistics suggest that our Government has successfully flatten the coronavirus curve for now, the dengue problem is still far from resolved. And with dengue cases traditionally peaking between May to October each year, due to the warmer weather conditions in these months, more cases can be expected and maybe even more deaths.
On my part I have already tabulated the things we can do as a society to stop dengue but until and unless everyone of us take the dengue threat seriously, the situation in Singapore is unlikely to change.
Dengue, What We Know So Far…
- The Aedes mosquito thrives in warmer conditions and the NEA surveillance has detected a rise in the Aedes mosquito population in the last 5 weeks
- The current outbreak is the worst ever in Singapore history. The number of cases in the first 41 weeks alone, at 31,338 have way surpassed that of the previous peak in 2013. That full year, Singapore recorded only 22,170 cases.
- A piece of good news though is that the number of weekly cases for the week ending 10 Oct 2020, at 530 is 70% less than the 1792 cases per week recorded during the peak in July this year. Still 530 cases is a lot higher than the number of cases recorded during this same period of previous years, since 2016
What Has Been Done?
The NEA has already stepped up prevention and control measures and are working closely with all town councils to curb the spread of this dreaded disease. They have also increased the penalties for mosquito breeding offences and sort to educate the public with their Spray, Apply, Wear (SAW) and Mozzie Wipeout initiatives.
Sure there are signs of improvement in the number of new cases. Week by week, the number of cases recorded has been decreasing, since the peak of 1,792 cases recorded in July 2020. But still, as Minister of State for Sustainability and the Environment, Desmond Tan said in his Facebook post, we have yet to turned the corner. In addition dengue is not new and have been endangering Singaporean lives since as far as I can remember. So given the above, what more can be done?
What Can Be Done – My Proposal
This may seem radical but the same primary measure used to fight Covid-19 can perhaps be used to battle dengue and that is, to isolate the infected. Dengue spreads when an Aedes mosquito bites an infected person and then goes on to bite others. Hence, dengue control measures worldwide are often targeted at removing the Aedes mosquito population. My argument is, why not remove the infected humans from the equation instead. How? By hospitalising them and thus making them out of reach of the Aedes aegypti female mosquito.
So here’s my suggestion in greater detail:
- Mandate that all infected persons be hospitalised the moment they are diagnose with dengue
- Keep these patients in comfortable air-conditioned wards (with mosquito nets) to keep mosquitoes out. Mosquitos are know to be less active in air-conditioned environments and the nets provide a second layer of protection
- Have proper pest control measures in placed to keep these specialised dengue wards mosquito free
And just like for Covid-19, have our Government pay for, or substantially subsidise these hospital stays.
The logic behind my suggestion is this – to have less infected people around for these Aedes mosquitoes to feed on. This in turn should break the dengue circle.
My Thoughts on Dengue Vs Covid-19
Covid-19 is new. The world including Singapore is thus fearful. We partially closed our economy via circuit breaker, just to flatten the Covid curve. We also closed our country to tourism, again an unprecedented move. These are very drastic measures but as a country, we took them and rightly so.
The question is – is dengue any less of a threat? 31,338 cases so far, vs the 57,866 cases for Covid-19 (as at 10 October 2020). Death stands at 28 for both diseases. If anything, the mortality rate for dengue is higher, based on the officially released cases and deaths numbers!
So if we are able to take the measures we took for Covid-19, why not bite the bullet once and for all with dengue too? We do not have to shut the economy and stop tourism for dengue. Instead, all we have to do is isolate those already infected to prevent the Aedes mosquitoes from getting to them and further spreading the disease. It will therefore be a less painful exercise economically. Had we started this program earlier, the dengue numbers may not have sky rocketed to today’s levels and if so the numbers that need to be hospitalised will have been lesser. But still, if it’s viable, it’s never too late to start.
Another Possible Benefit from This Approach?
I couldn’t help but wonder if the 28 lives who succumbed to dengue could have been saved, if they were hospitalised earlier. If so, this approach will also help save Singaporean lives.
I’m not a medical doctor or a politician. Am just an average Singaporean who love and am concern for our country. I started this blog so that I can express my thoughts in terms of how we live, work and play as Singaporeans. I do hope that someone with the appropriate knowledge will stumble upon this article, improve on the ideas here and submit it as a working proposal for our Government to consider. This way, I’ll know that in my little way, I’ve contributed to Singapore.