Singapore’s Dengue Emergency: What it means for the world

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A worker sprays insecticide to fight against dengue fever in Singapore, July 6, 2021.

Maybe we do not realize it as yet, but there is a surreptious and stealthily moving epidemic of sorts that is plaguing Singapore these days. And it is slowing but steadily gathering momentum. This small developed nation is being ravaged by dengue, a disease that is attributed to the lowly but dangerous mosquito.  

What is Dengue?

Dengue is a disease that is known to be carried and spread by mosquitoes. 

The victims of the disease experience symptoms of flu, more specifically a high fever, accompanied by a headache and bodily discomfort. 

If not treated correctly or in time, the disease has been known to cause bleeding and breathing difficulties. 

In the final term, it can also lead to organ failure and bring about the death of the infected individual.
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The Rate of Infection

The WHO has determined that not only is the rate of infection increasing across countries all over the world, but also that the disease is being spread to more and more areas- including some nations where dengue has not been experienced before. This is quite an alarming situation.

In Singapore, the disease has been rampant every summer for more than the last decade or so.  

Till the end of May 2022, about 11,500 cases had been reported since last year. Only 10% of these required hospitalization. However the strain of dengue this year appears to be more virulent. 

This has resulted in the total number of cases to be about 11,000 in 2022 compared to a little over 5,200 recorded in 2021.

A Result of Climate Change?

Climate experts have noted that the disease has appeared far earlier than in previous years. 

Dengue cases in Singapore have usually made their presence felt in early July each year. However, it is clear from medical and social records this year that patients have been reporting to hospitals and medical clinics since April or May. 

This has confounded experts and made them wonder if the new starting point has been the result of climate change, or some such related phenomenon. 

Environmentalists are still debating the point to date and there is yet to be a consensus on the issue.

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Plans to Deal with the Disease

The rapid and early spread of the disease this year has made Singapore feel that it is facing a possible epidemic that is quite likely to be repeated each year. 

Meanwhile, effects of climate change have resulted in higher and warmer temperatures- as much as 47 degrees Celsius that will result in an average of 12 more warm days and nights this year. 

When the hot and dry weather is followed by a rainy season, it gives further support for mosquitoes to breed and spread diseases. 

Singapore has embarked on a nationwide program that includes steps such as spraying insect repellent, cleaning up water reservoirs that could turn into breeding grounds, and increased the supply of medication that would cure infected patients.  

Recipe for Disaster

Singapore is quite rightly worried for a number of reasons. 

The warm and humid climate of this nation is a favorite breeding ground for the Aedes species of mosquito that carries the dengue virus. The same mosquito is also responsible for the spread of Zika, chikungunya and dengue. 

Global climate change means that the spread and transmission of such diseases will increase throughout the world. The WHO has estimated that the disease has increased 30-fold in the last 50 years.

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