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While a dengue fever outbreak is not uncommon in Singapore, the National Environment Agency (NEA) observed an unusual rise in dengue cases from January 2013, which was not within the typical April to October peak dengue transmission season. Concurrently, NEA also detected an increasing proportion of cases infected by the dengue virus serotype DENV-1, which provided early indication of a possible epidemic later in the year.

DSTA was approached by NEA for a collaborative study to devise optimal manpower deployment for vector control during the peak dengue season. The study also explored different concepts of operations (CONOPS) to handle the increased number of home inspections.

To carry out the study, DSTA developed a customised two stage simulation model that took into account key parameters such as different operation types (for inspecting flats and landed properties, as well as checking for premises with sporadic reported cases), working hours and other manpower considerations.

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In order to ease data collection efforts by vector control inspectors, the team formulated data collection templates. While observing vector control operations carried out by the inspectors, the team also explained to the inspectors the importance of consistent data collection and how the new templates should be used.

The team’s data analysis highlighted interesting variations in inspection timings, as well as improved success rates from an alternative procedure for making inspection appointments. These findings led to recommendations that were incorporated into the NEA’s operation procedures to bring about more effective inspections.

At the end of the study, a computer simulation model was developed for NEA to enable its in-house capability to determine dengue inspection manpower requirements and to evaluate future CONOPS. The study also allowed short and long-term recommendations to be made to NEA in terms of optimal manpower deployment and improvements in operational procedures.

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