Sun, Aug 23, 2009 - Page 1 News List

CDC warns of a flu epidemic in the next two weeks

By Mo Yan-chih and Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday warned of a large-scale flu epidemic, including swine flu, taking place in the next two weeks.

The regular flu season usually begins at the end of October and ends sometime after the Lunar New Year, but CDC spokesman Lin Ting (林頂) said the CDC was expecting an early start to the flu season this year because of swine flu.

“At the moment, we have more than 9,000 flu cases every week and we expect to have an additional 10,000 flu patients, including cases of swine flu, in the coming weeks,” Lin said, urging the public to stay alert during the potential epidemic.

Lin said the CDC was confident ahead of the fight against the epidemic, adding that it had 10 million doses of flu vaccine ready to use and that an additional 5 million vaccine doses for swine flu were on the way, with the manufacturer promising that there would be at least 3.5 million doses ready by the end of December.

In a related development, summer classes at 14 schools in Taipei City have been forced to close temporarily because of suspected cases of swine flu and it was likely that more schools would be affected.

A meeting on Friday between the Department of Health and Taipei City Government’s Department of Education reached a consensus on continuing to follow the Ministry of Education’s guidelines for class closures, despite concerns that the rigid guidelines could result in a greater number of class closures when the new semester begins on Sept. 1.

Education Department Chief Secretary Lin Hsin-yao (林信耀) said the department would discuss closure guidelines with individual municipal schools and make changes if necessary.

The Ministry of Education’s closure guidelines state that an entire class should be suspended for five days if two or more cases that are suspected to be swine flu occur in the class within the space of three days.

Several school principals, such as Wang Deng-fang (王登方) of Cheng Kung High School and Lee Shih-wen (李世文) of Hoping High School, have expressed concerns about the guidelines, saying it would be difficult for teachers to make up for missed lessons.

“There would be large-scale class closures at schools if an epidemic happened and it would affect the quality of education,” Lee said.

Lin said the department was planning to establish an online study database for students to continue their studies if their classes are suspended.

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