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Cases of dengue have been increasing in Singapore. With average daily temperatures rising during June, July and August, the mosquito population is also expected to grow. If left unchecked, this is likely to bring about more dengue cases.
The principal vector mosquito, Aedes aegypti, is most frequently found in or near human habitations and prefers to feed on humans during the daytime. It has two peak periods of biting activity:
The mosquito may feed at any time during the day, especially indoors, in shady areas, or when it is overcast. Mosquitoes breed in standing water, which is often found in discarded tires, uncovered barrels, buckets, flower vases or pots, cans, and cisterns.
This mosquito is relatively easy to identify on sight: it is dark in colour, with conspicuous white markings and white "bands" around the legs.
Dengue fever has an incubation period of three to 14 days (most commonly four to seven days), and is characterised by a sudden onset of high fever, severe frontal headache, and joint and muscle pain. Many patients experience nausea, vomiting, and rash. The rash appears three to five days after onset of fever and can spread from the torso to the arms, legs, and face.
The disease is usually a self-limiting one. There are non-specific viral symptoms in many cases, but dengue can also be a severe, sometimes fatal disease characterised by bleeding and low blood pressure (dengue haemorrhagic fever and dengue shock syndrome).
No vaccine is currently available.
The risk of acquiring dengue can be reduced by remaining indoors in screened-in or air-conditioned areas, wearing clothing that adequately covers the arms and legs and applying insect repellent to both skin and clothing. The most effective repellents are those containing N,N-diethylmetatoluamide (DEET).
The RID range of insect repellents from Australia with an active ingredient of DEET has been proven for decades as most effective in repelling biting insects. The Tropical Strength range provides up to six hours protection, while the low irritant Kids RID is suitable for children over six months of age and provides protection for up to three hours. A SPF 30+ sun screen repellent combination is also available.
For infants below six months of age, Permethrin Treatment Kits are recommended. Permethrin is a natural insecticide which can be used safely to treat an infant's clothes.
Homes should be mosquito-proofed with simple preventive measures including covering toilet bowls, gully and floor traps and ensuring there is no stagnant water in pails or vases.
The RID range of protective products is available at the International Medical Clinic (IMC) in Singapore.