The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday urged people to remain calm in the face of the swine flu outbreak in Mexico, adding there was no immediate danger.
No one in Taiwan is known to be infected and authorities are closely monitoring developments, centers spokesman Shih Wen-yi (施文儀) told a press conference.
“There is no need to panic, but it is necessary to stay alert,” Shih said.
Department of Health (DOH) Minister Yeh Ching-chuan (葉金川) said the government listed the H1N1 virus as a legal category A infectious disease yesterday.
Under the Communicable Disease Prevention and Control Act (傳染病防治法), testing for such diseases must be completed and reported to the CDC within 24 hours, while physicians or forensic examiners are required to take measures to contain the disease.
Vice Premier Paul Chiu (邱正雄) chaired a Cabinet meeting yesterday to coordinate strategy on preventing an H1N1 infection.
Yeh said that under the framework of the International Health Regulations, to which Taiwan gained entry earlier this month, the DOH was maintaining close contact with the WHO on the situation.
Chiu instructed the DOH to closely monitor the situation and promptly inform the Executive Yuan if preventive measures needed to be heightened, Yeh said.
The government would set up a central command center on around-the-clock alert, replacing the Cabinet coordination team, if necessary, Yeh said.
At yesterday’s meeting, Chiu asked the National Immigration Agency to ensure the policy of sending passengers from flu-affected areas who display flu-like symptoms to hospital for quarantine and observation is fully implemented, Executive Yuan Spokesman Su Jun-pin (蘇俊賓) said.
He asked the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to help six Taiwanese disease-prevention physicians travel to Mexico to gain first-hand information on the outbreak and for the DOH to ensure it has enough supplies. Meanwhile, Shih said the only way to confirm swine flu is through lab tests, which can be completed within six hours. Shih urged the public to be honest with medical personnel if they have flu symptoms.
“If you have traveled to an infected area and you begin to suffer from flu symptoms, please be honest and tell a doctor,” Shih said.
Relenza and Tamiflu, which are used to treat regular flu, “can help keep the virus under control, but cannot eliminate the virus,” Shih said. “But these drugs will only be used in severe cases, once diagnosed. Currently, we have at least 2.3 million shots of these two drugs in stock. There is no need to worry.”
The CDC has implemented enhanced screening mechanisms against potential swine influenza patients or carriers at airports and harbors.
Shih said that there are approximately 1,500 Taiwanese in Mexico City, and between 10 and 14 flights arrive daily from North America, that might carry people who have been to Mexico.
“These flights usually arrive in the early mornings or evenings. We have assigned extra medical personnel to airports during these times,” Shih said.
Meanwhile, Council of Agriculture Vice Minister Wang Cheng-teng (王政騰) said pork and pork products are safe to eat even if they are imported from flu-affected areas, although Taiwan does not import pork from these areas.
The foreign ministry issued an orange travel alert for Mexico City yesterday to discourage people from traveling to the area.