‘The Silent War’ to combat rising cases of dengue in Singapore

The National Environment Agency of Singapore has launched an eight-episode web documentary to put an end to the over 19,000 documented cases of dengue, which results from the breeding of the Aedes mosquito in stagnant water

The number of dengue cases has a reached a record high in Singapore, a country not only known for its cleanliness but also for its high-quality healthcare and hospitals.

The National Environment Agency of Singapore, under the Ministry of the Environment and Water Resources (MEWR), has launched an offensive in the form of its first web documentary called ‘The Silent War’ on Thursday.

This video is the first in a series of eight episodes on the Ministry’s YouTube channel, which will be aired in succession every Tuesday. This initial show is entitled “The Crisis” and it details the serious consequences of an Aedes mosquito bite, or the female insect specifically causing the deadly yet preventable disease.

In documentary fashion, the video starts with a narrative account from the parents of Ang Yong Han, a young lad who is the first fatality in Hougang, a residential area in the northeast side of Singapore.

Anyone can be affected with dengue

Prof Leo Yee Sin, Communicable Disease Centre clinical director

According to the parents, their son suddenly became feverish and in a number of days, while already in Tan Tock Seng hospital, he soon lost consciousness and died.

In the episode, the father speaking in Chinese, said: “How could a mosquito’s bite kill?”

“Anyone can be affected with dengue,” said Prof Leo Yee Sin, clinical director of the Communicable Disease Centre in the city-state.

Currently, there are over 19,000 cases of dengue in the country for 2013 alone, including six recorded deaths, said the NEA.

The agency, together with the MEWR, has a mandate to ensure a clean, sustainable environment and water supply for Singapore. The Ministry has an alloted 2013 budget of S$1.3 billion for this.

One of its main responsibilities in this regard is to maintain a low dengue incidence. The NEA conducts virus surveillance, risk assessment and community mobilisation, in addition to their research and knowledge sharing work with neighbouring countries. 

In the web documentary, they will not only show select dengue cases but they will also highlight the various efforts being conducted by the agency to control and end the outbreak. Their officers are visiting flats, houses and various residential areas, to check on mosquito breeding grounds and to create awareness.

One of the organisation’s campaigns, which also includes the use of social media sites, is the “Do the Mozzie Wipeout”. This is a ten-minute, five-step process to eliminate the Aedes mosquito around typically domestic areas with stagnant water.

According to the NEA, the mosquito has a lifecycle of about seven days and it is important to break this cycle, to improve sanitation and reduce the dengue risk. The steps are: change the water in vases and bowls on alternate days; remove water from flower pot plates also on alternate days; turn over all water storage containers; cover bamboo pole holders when not in use; and, clear blockages and put BTI (Bacillus thuringiensis israelensis) insecticide in roof gutters monthly.

Aside from the web series, the NEA has other informative materials on detecting the fever, the spread of the virus, and reminders on getting early treatment to prevent the severe and fatal form of dengue.

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