Image: 3D cross section of a Dengue virus showing structural components. Source: Girish Khera, Scientific Animations –

Asia Dengue Summit, 15 April 2019 – Two separate news reports over the first few weeks of April (The Jakarta Times and CNA), revealed that the dengue fever burden in Singapore and Indonesia has already soared past epidemic levels over the first quarter of 2019.

Singapore: A Record-Breaking Dengue Epidemic This Year?

In Singapore, there is a three-fold increase in the number of dengue cases over the first three months of this year, compared to the same period in 2018 (over 2000 cases compared about to 600)  – and has already claimed the lives of three elderly people.

“Our neighbouring countries have also reported sharp increases in dengue cases in recent months. The warmer months of June to October usually see higher transmission of dengue in Singapore, due to the accelerated development of the Aedes mosquito and the shorter incubation period of the dengue virus,” said Singapore’s National Environmental Agency.

One interesting note from this report is that Aedes mosquito population levels are actually 7 percent lower for the month of March, compared to the same period a year ago. Yet, the number of dengue fever cases has actually tripled. This is despite Singapore’s experimental use of Wolbachia bacteria (Project Wolbachia Singapore – see linkto control mosquito breeding in the country.

Indonesia: The Epicentre of Dengue Outbreaks? Or is it Epicentres? 

In Indonesia, a similar story is unfolding, with at least 16 deaths arising from East Sumba regency in East Nusa Tenggara province, where as many as 875 residents there have been diagnosed with dengue fever.

A country several times the size of Singapore, dengue fever outbreaks have been hitting Indonesia hard since the beginning of this year: data from the Indonesian Health Ministry up to early March showed there were 34,422 cases of dengue fever in 459 regencies and municipalities across the archipelago. Several areas have declared emergency occurrence (KLB) alert periods against dengue.

Burning questions abound

What is behind the decrease in Aedes mosquito population in Singapore, and why have cases tripled despite fewer Aedes mosquitoes detected? Does Project Wolbachia Singapore work? If it does, why the increase in cases? And does data reported by Indonesian news sources represent a spike in dengue fever cases – or is it par for the course in Indonesia?

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