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Fri, May 26, 2000 - Page 2 News List

Enterovirus epidemic spreading

PUBLIC HEALTH The center for disease control says that the current enterovirus epidemic in Taiwan is on the wane in cities, but still spreading in rural areas

By Liu Shao-hua  /  STAFF REPORTER

Three young children have died from enterovirus (腸病毒) infections in Taiwan this year, disease control officials said yesterday.

Medical experts predicted yesterday that the current enterovirus epidemic would peak next week and appealed to parents to pay special attention to the health of their children, particularly those under the age of three.

The number of confirmed "serious" infections so far this year has reached 20, three of which resulted in the deaths of children between the ages of one and three-and-a-half.

The latest victim, a one-year-old infant girl from Taipei City, died on May 21.

Compared to the 15 serious cases reported last year, "this year's epidemic is a little more widespread," said Chiang Ying-lung (江英隆), deputy director-general of the Center for Disease Control (疾病管制局).

Last week, the average number of infections referred to specialist doctors nationwide per week was 11.08 people -- higher than the figure of 9.12, two weeks ago.

Chiang said the average infection rate across the country was climbing as a whole, but the infection rate in urban areas appeared to be on the decline.

"We predict the epidemic is going to peak next week," Chiang said, explaining that yearly enterovirus outbreaks follow a trend. "The epidemic spreads rapidly in densely populated cities, then moves on to rural places."

According to the disease center, infections in Taipei, Keelung and Taoyuan all began to decline last week.

The center invited medical professionals to discuss serious cases yesterday. This year there have been 77 reported suspected serious enterovirus infections, 11 of which resulted in death.

"But 22 reported cases, including 3 deaths, have been positively excluded as EV infections," Chiang said.

The disease center was still examining the other 35 reported serious cases to identify if they were EV infections.

According to the center, enterovirus-71 -- the strain that resulted in the deaths of some 78 people during an outbreak in the summer of 1998 -- has not caused any fatalities this year.

Chiang said the symptoms of those seriously infected are a continuous high fever, unconsciousness, spasms in hands and feet, being short of breath, as well as a racing heartbeat due to severe pulmonary disease complications.

He appealed to parents to examine their children carefully to see if they display any of the symptoms, and bring them to hospital immediately if they do.

"Receiving treatment as early as possible can decrease the risk of death," he said.

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