Disaster relief work in the aftermath of Typhoon Morakot is being complicated by the emerging threat of a swine flu epidemic, as an increasing number of flu patients are diagnosed and reported nationwide, including several aid workers.
The Ministry of National Defense said in a press release yesterday that 10 soldiers working in the Pingtung area had been diagnosed with swine flu.
The ministry, however, denied a media report that a soldier had contracted lung disease as a result of a swine flu infection, adding: “All the soldiers infected with the A(H1N1) virus have mild symptoms and are currently being treated in hospital.”
The ministry said it had ordered soldiers to execute comprehensive disinfection work in areas hit by the typhoon, as well as victim shelters, to prevent the virus spreading.
About 300 flood victims in Wannei Village (灣內) in Wandan Township (萬丹), Pingtung County, were hospitalized after coming down with a fever, reports said. Though swine flu had been ruled out, the mass hospitalization stirred panic in the village, the report said.
Premier Liu Chao-shiuan (劉兆玄) told a press conference yesterday: “While the disaster relief work is going on, we shouldn’t be careless about a [possible] A(H1N1) epidemic.”
Liu, citing recommendations by the Central Epidemic Command Center’s (CECC) committee of experts, said: “In disaster victim shelters, soldiers and volunteers are advised to wear face masks, because they are in contact with many people and that puts them more at risk of infection.”
Liu said the government’s policy on a possible swine flu epidemic has been to attempt to isolate cases and delay an epidemic for as long as possible, adding that so far the government had been successful.
“The global flu situation, however, tells us that we have to act and recent deaths remind us that we have to continue fighting this war,” he said.
Because of this, the CECC has decided to relax procedures for administrating Tamiflu to patients, so that the flu medication can be given to anyone demonstrating flu-like symptoms, even if they have tested negative in preliminary tests, Liu said.
“Those with chronic diseases, the elderly, children under five years of age, pregnant women, people in contact with swine flu patients and people with lung disease or other major illnesses will be given priority,” Department of Health Minister Yaung Chih-liang (楊志良) said.
The committee of experts also recommended increasing the country’s stock of vaccine to cover 30 percent of the population, up from 18 percent, which is 7 million doses, Yaung said.
The relaxing of the standards came after the Centers of Disease Control yesterday announced the nation’s latest swine flu deaths.
A six-year-old boy living in Changhua County who had been battling the disease since July 19 and a 44-year-old woman from Pingtung County, who was not a typhoon victim and who began displaying severe flu symptoms on Thursday, passed away yesterday, bringing the nation’s total death toll from the swine flu virus to five.
Meanwhile, residents of Siaolin Village, which was wiped out by landslides during the typhoon, decided to suspend digging at the site.
Tsai Sung-yu (蔡松諭), chief of the residents’ organization, said the decision was made because it had become much more difficult and dangerous for the soldiers to proceed with the digging after torrential rain on Thursday.
Tsai said the work would restart during reconstruction of the village or during construction of a memorial at the site.
Liu Chien-fang (劉建芳), chief of Jiasian Township (甲仙), said he supported the residents’ decision.
ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY FLORA WANG
‘HERO OF THE ERA’: President Tsai Ing-wen expressed deep sadness at Lee’s passing, and told the government to assist his family with all their needs Former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) passed away at 7:24pm yesterday at Taipei Veterans General Hospital. He was 97 years old. The hospital stated the cause of death as septic shock and multiple organ failure. Lee had been hospitalized there since February, when he choked on a mouthful of milk at home. He was later diagnosed with pulmonary infiltrates and aspiration pneumonia. The hospital said that Lee had been treated with antibiotics, but that his health had not improved, as his advanced age and diabetes had inhibited his immune system and led to recurring infections. During his hospitalization, Lee underwent daily kidney dialysis, which removed
‘WEAK POSITIVE’: The man arrived in Taiwan in May and was quarantined for two weeks, Chen Shih-chung said, adding that he might be infected a long time ago The government is considering tightening mask-wearing rules again in light of a potential domestic COVID-19 infection, Minister of Health and Welfare Chen Shih-chung (陳時中) said yesterday. The Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) confirmed seven new COVID-19 cases, six of which are imported. The other case involves a Belgian engineer who entered Taiwan on May 3 and remained in quarantine until May 17, said Chen, who heads the CECC. Although the source of infection has yet to be identified, the case could end the nation’s record of not having any domestic cases in the previous 110 days. The Belgian, in his 20s, is a technician
RECEIVING TREATMENT: President Tsai Ing-wen, Vice President William Lai and Premier Su Tseng-chang visited former president Lee Teng-hui yesterday morning Taipei Veterans General Hospital yesterday rebutted speculation that former president Lee Teng-hui (李登輝) had died a day earlier, saying that he was weak, but receiving treatment. The hospital said the 97-year-old Lee was not in good condition and needed ongoing care, adding that if there are any changes in his condition, it would make those public. The comments came after rumors emerged online on Tuesday that Lee had died after being hospitalized since early February. Soon after the unsubstantiated rumors emerged, reporters started flocking to the hospital seeking confirmation. Lee was admitted to Taipei Veterans General Hospital on Feb. 8 after choking while drinking
THAI CASE UPDATE: Twenty-nine close contacts of the worker have been tested with two types of tests, including 18 dorm mates, with 28 negative results so far Five imported cases of COVID-19, four from the Philippines and one from Hong Kong, were reported yesterday, bringing the total confirmed cases in Taiwan to 467, the Central Epidemic Command Center (CECC) said yesterday. The four returning from the Philippines were on the same flight, and the local health department has identified 15 people who had direct contact with them — including 10 passengers in the two rows in front or behind them, who have been put under 14-day home isolation, and five crew members, who will practice 14-day self-health management, said Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang