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Number of influenza cases in Taiwan increases 27 percent last week

2018/01/23 18:51:01

Kuo Hung-wei (郭宏偉)

Taipei, Jan. 23 (CNA) The number of people seeking medical treatment for flu-like symptoms in Taiwan rose last week to nearly 130,000, a 27 percent increase from the previous week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said Tuesday.

According to CDC data, a total of 129,593 people sought treatment for flu-like ailments in the week ending Jan. 20. In addition, during the last four weeks there have been 57 cluster infections, 44 of which were in schools.

CDC Epidemic Intelligence Center deputy head Kuo Hung-wei (郭宏偉) said there was a marked increase in the number of people seeking treatment for flu-like symptoms last week and at present the Type B influenza virus is most prevalent.

CDC physician Lin Yung-ching (林詠青) said an additional 14 influenza related deaths have been identified with the onset of symptoms starting between the second half of November and the first half of January.

Of the 14 fatalities, 11 were caused by the Type B virus, two the Type A H3N2 virus and one the Type A H1N1 virus, said Kuo.

The deaths consisted of five males and nine females ranging in age from 35-91, all of whom had other underlying chronic illnesses, said Lin, adding that 11 were not vaccinated this season.

The prognosis of the fatalities all presented in a similar way in that they started with coughing, fever and other upper respiratory symptoms, said Lin, adding that the patients experienced shortness of breath and other complications due to pneumonia, with an average time frame of seven to 10 days following the onset of symptoms to death.

In order to combat infection, people need to wash their hands frequently, wear face masks if they display respiratory symptoms and rest at home if they are sick, said Lin.

Of the 52 patients who were diagnosed with severe flu complications last week, the highest number in any single week this season, Lin said the youngest patient was a 17-month-old girl who had prior cardiovascular disease and was not vaccinated.

CDC Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said the flu outbreak should peak this week with a new high of people seeking treatment for related symptoms.

The rise in numbers is believed to have been caused by a cold spell last week, but with the school holidays set to start on Wednesday, the number of influenza cases should gradually decline, said Chuang.

There are currently about 60,000 doses of free flu vaccine shots still available said Chuang, urging people who are eligible to get vaccinated while others can pay for the vaccination.

The World Health Organization (WHO) and various health agencies worldwide have pointed out that influenza activity in the temperate zone of the Northern Hemisphere continues to increase, while the influenza Type A H3N2 and Type B viruses accounted for the majority of influenza detections worldwide.

At present, the majority of influenza cases detected in China, Hong Kong, South Korea and Europe have been caused by the Type B virus while in the United States and Canada the Type A H3N2 virus is more prevalent.

More recently, Canada has also seen an increase in detection of the influenza Type B virus, while the influenza Type A H1N1 virus has accounted for the majority of cases in Japan.

(By Chen Wei-ting and William Yen)