Feb 04 2013
Singapore may be the only Southeast Asian country to be declared malaria-free, but that doesn’t mean there are no health risks. There is a small but serious risk of dengue fever in Singapore, and more than 700 cases have been reported just in the first month of 2013.
Dengue fever is a virus spread by bites from Aedes mosquitoes. As the name suggests, its main symptom is a high fever but also a rash, headache and extreme pain in bones, joints and behind the eyes. Most cases of dengue are not fatal, but it will cause seven to 10 days of misery (click here to read experiences from travellers who’ve had dengue).
Since there is no cure or vaccine for dengue fever, the main solution is to control the mosquito population. In Singapore, this means the government sends mosquito control officers to visit homes and construction sites to ensure there is no standing water where mosquitoes can breed. Although these efforts have greatly reduced the mosquito population, it’s impossible to get them all.
While you’re unlikely to get bitten shopping on Orchard Road or walking around the financial district, you should wear mosquito repellent when visiting greener parts of Singapore like the Botanic Gardens, Singapore Zoo, Pulau Ubin and nature reserves. Repellent is especially advisable during its peak feeding times, during the early morning and late afternoon, as this is when the Aedes mosquitoes who spread dengue tend to bite – they can be identified by the white bands on their legs. (Though there are reports of a night-biting dengue-spreading mossie also developing.)
If you are in Singapore and suspect you may have dengue fever, you are advised to see a doctor or go to the emergency room of the nearest hospital. You can also contact the 24-hour dengue hotline at 1-800-X-DENGUE with any queries or to report a mosquito breeding site. You can also obtain Singapore’s latest dengue statistics, including maps of dengue outbreak sites and the number of reported infections each week, at http://www.dengue.gov.sg/.
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