October 1, 2005

Singapore sees dip in dengue cases – experts

SINGAPORE (Reuters) - Singapore, fighting its worst dengue
epidemic, is optimistic that the number of cases had peaked and
will dip in the coming months, a panel of health experts said
on Saturday.

Twelve Singaporeans have died from the mosquito-borne
disease this year and 10,951 cases of dengue fever were
reported by September 24 -- 16 percent more than the total
number recorded last year when dengue infections rocketed to a
10-year high.

"Looking at the trend, it looks like it will come down but
we will have to monitor some more," Goh Kee Tai, an associate
professor and senior consultant in communicable diseases at the
Ministry of Health told reporters.

Goh is part of a panel of seven experts appointed by
Singapore to advise on the dengue outbreak and recommend
control measures.

The scale of the outbreak in Singapore, a Southeast Asian
island of 4.2 million people that is known for its clean
streets and modern sanitation, has baffled its government and
led to sweeping measures to kill mosquitoes.

Introduction of new strains of dengue virus with greater
epidemic potential, as well as dense population that encourages
higher disease transmission, may have led to Singapore's dengue
epidemic, the panel said.

But given that Singapore has one of the best dengue control
programs in the world -- Aedes aegypti mosquito populations in
Singapore are so low that conventional population assessment
methods are inadequate -- research is needed to develop new
methods to fight future outbreaks, according to the panel.

"We have reached a new quantum level in control," said Paul
Reiter, an Entomolgy professor from the Pasteur Institute.

"Because you have been so successful, the mosquito has
become more effective, so you need to go that extra mile to
suppress this new level of transmission," he said, referring to
Singapore's control measures.

An endemic viral disease in the tropics, dengue is carried
by the Aedes aegypti mosquito. Symptoms include fever, severe
headache, joint and muscular pains, vomiting and rashes.

Singapore's neighbors, Malaysia, Indonesia and the
Philippines, are also struggling to contain the disease, for
which there is no ready vaccine.

Malaysia said on Tuesday that dengue fever in the country
was nearing an epidemic after 752 cases were reported last
week, 50 percent more than were recorded in the last week of