A global flu pandemic has broken out, with positive rates for influenza in Europe as high as 50 percent, 30 percent in the US and 20 percent in China. In Taiwan, however, data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) shows that the number of people with the flu is the lowest it has been in three years, with only one in 100 people that are showing flu-like symptoms actually contracting the virus.
Influenza is not the same as the common cold. Flu symptoms include shortness of breath, dyspnea, cyanosis, bloody or purulent sputum, chest pain, altered states of consciousness, low blood pressure and a high fever persisting for more than 72 hours. A small outbreak of the H3N2 influenza strain occured in Taiwan in April last year, which reached its peak at the end of June and beginning of July.
Chuang Jen-hsiang, director of the Epidemic Intelligence Center at the CDC, says that heat and humidity help kill the influenza virus, so it does not usually wreak much havoc in the summer. For people who have contracted the virus in the summer, they will not get sick with the same strain the following winter. The CDC’s publicly funded vaccine jabs, offered beginning in October last year, have significantly reduced the number of flu cases over the past three months.
According to data from the CDC, only two out of 179 patients with flu-like symptoms actually had H3N2, a positive rate of 1.1 percent. Looking back at the positive rate during the same period over the past three years, which has been between 20 and 50 percent, the prevalence of influenza in the past three months is at a new low. From July last year up until last week, a total of 279 H3N2 cases had been confirmed, 25 of which were fatal. During the same period the year before, a total of 72 people died out of 680 confirmed cases. Chuang would like to remind people that although the number of people getting the flu is low right now, it might gradually increase over the next few months. The peak of the flu season this year is anticipated to occur during the Lunar New Year holiday.
CDC Deputy-Director Chou Jih-haw says that an influenza outbreak can happen very quickly and no one can really predict when. Aside from getting vaccinated, he hopes that people will remember three easy preventative measures, which include washing your hands often, wearing medical masks and reducing time spent in public places.
(Liberty Times, Translated by Kyle Jeffcoat)