Dengue fever has seen a steep rise in southern Taiwan and may become a perennial disease if the virus rides out the winter, health officials warned yesterday.
"If we still have new cases being reported in December or January, the implications are grave," said Wu Ping-fuai (
"That means the disease can spread around the year. In that case, health officials will only be able to fight a rearguard action against the disease. Our current approach is to prevent the disease during the sultry, humid summer. If the disease becomes a perennial and localized malady, we will only be able to prevent it killing people," Wu said.
Unchecked by the center's five-month-long clean-up campaigns, the mosquito-transmitted disease has spilled beyond rural Pingtung County to Kaohsiung City. While 241 cases have been reported in Pingtung County, 18 cases have been identified in Kaohsiung City.
With the latest case identified in Fong-Shan City in Kaohsiung County last week, the total number of people infected with dengue fever has soared to 346, a double jump compared to the figure during the same time last year.
In the latest case, a woman contracted the illness while attending to her father-in-law, who was recovering from dengue fever. She left the hospital on Monday and is resting at home.
Local health officials have conducted blood tests on 69 people, including her family and neighbors. Test results showed that none of them had been infected.
The local health bureau said it is prepared to expand the scope of its investigation to a kindergarten near the woman's home.
"The major difficulty in stamping out the disease is an uncooperative public," Wu said, who said people living in affected areas are not clearing their environment as advised.
Not many people clean their flower pots and get rid of abandoned tires holding stagnant water, in which the virus-carrying Aedes mosquitos breed. Some of them even refuse to let health officials spray pesticide, Wu said.
"The government cannot kill every mosquito larva in people's homes. It depends on the residents themselves," he said.
Health officials warned that people in several regions are at risk of contracting the fatal dengue hemorrhagic fever. A survey conducted by the center showed that the first and fourth variant of the disease are rampant in Pingtung City's Yongan (