With the number of flu cases having risen steadily over the past three weeks, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday alerted the public to prepare for a possible flu epidemic this winter and urged the country's unvaccinated toddlers and seniors to get a jab immediately. \nLast week alone there were an average of 32.1 cases of flu infection for every doctor reporting to the center, a 20 percent increase from a week earlier. \nThe figure was also higher than the 29.3 cases reported during the same period last year, according to the center. \nCooler winter conditions are allowing flu viruses to spread at accelerated pace, doctors said. \n"As it is getting colder, the number of patients in our hospital saw a ten-fold jump," warned Huang Li-min (黃立民), chief of the Division of Infectious Diseases at National Taiwan University Hospital. \nAccording to Huang, only one or two samples were found to contain flu virus among the 80 throat swabs the hospital collected for lab analysis each week last month. Yet the hospital's lab identified 10 virus-positive samples last week alone. \n"The scope of the flu is widening. Just think of the rising number of outpatients in the diagnosis room and the virus-positive swabs in the lab. They are all alarm bells," Huang added. \n"Usually, the flu peak arrives around Christmas here. Yet the annual epidemic comes later this year. From our survey, we estimated that Taiwan will have its flu peak by the Lunar New Year," said Lin Ting (林頂), the center's deputy director-general. \nWith a surplus of flu vaccines, the center urged the unvaccinated to get the free shots as soon as possible. The center's data showed that 18,000 doses of flu vaccines for babies under the age of three and 200,000 doses for adults still remain untouched in local health bureaus. \nThe center has eased restrictions and allowed people aged above 50 to get the free vaccination. As part of the high-risk groups, poultry farmers and health worker are also eligible for the free jab. \nHealth officials warned that only 58 percent of the country's 38,800 poultry farmers went into hospitals to get vaccinated. "The percentage is alarmingly low. All poultry farmers should be shielded from the flu epidemic, since they are exposed to bird flu in their daily work," said Yan Jer-jea (顏哲傑), director of the center's immunization division The warning came amid a recent spate of bird flu infections in Vietnam and Thailand, two countries frequented by Taiwanese tourists. \nOn Monday, Vietnam confirmed that the lethal H5N1 strain of bird flu killed a 17-year-old boy, bringing the toll to 29 since the first outbreak hit the region's poultry industry in December 2003. \nThailand also found new cases of bird flu in two provinces last week, prompting the Thai authorities to issue an alert to poultry farmers. \nIf the deadly H5N1 strain of the virus were to merge with a human flu virus, health officials worried, it could produce a strain capable of sweeping through a human population without immunity, possibly killing millions worldwide. \n"If a person contracts flu and avian flu at the same time, we fear that the virus' gene sequences will be reassembled. A new virus strain will emerge. Once this happens, no one has the antibody against the latest mutated virus," said Yan.
A Taipei veterinarian is urging pet owners to avoid using insecticides around their homes, as their ingredients can be toxic to pets. Commercial-grade insecticides contain pyrethroids — organic compounds similar to natural pyrethrins, pesticides produced by flowers such as chrysanthemums — in quantities that are harmless to humans, but potentially fatal to cats and dogs, Asian Veterinary Specialist Referral Center veterinarian Chua Man-ling (蔡曼琳) said. Even in small quantities, pyrethroids are hazardous to cats, as they lack the metabolic enzymes needed to process them, Chua said. Cockroach sprays and ant traps are especially dangerous to pets as they contain boric acid, she
People should avoid eating too many zongzi (粽子, glutinous rice wrapped in bamboo leaves), as consuming several in one meal could cause indigestion, bloating, gastric acid reflux, heartburn and other stomach ailments, a doctor said on Saturday. Zongzi is a traditional delicacy for the Dragon Boat Festival, which was on Thursday. Citing a recent case as an example, Cathay General Hospital gastroenterology department head Chu Yu-ming (朱淯銘) said that a 58-year-old taxi driver surnamed Hsiao (蕭) ate meals at irregular hours due to his work and has been taking diabetes medicine for three years. Hsiao recently bought a bag of zongzi and ate
While stereotypically considered a household pest that simply will not die, Hung Ting-yang’s (洪鼎揚) experience with Archimandrita tesselata, commonly called the peppered roach, might change a person’s mind. The peppered roach originates in South America, is omnivorous and, as it is capable of growing to 7cm to 9cm long, is a giant compared with other roaches, which have an average length of about 4cm. The peppered roach goes through six separate chrysalis stages and takes nine months to reach full maturity. Mature roaches have wings, but cannot fly and can only glide. They have an average lifespan of three years. As his
The EU’s list of safe nations to which it would reopen borders next week does not include Taiwan, but the Ministry of Foreign Affairs yesterday said the list has not been finalized and some EU countries have highlighted the importance of “reciprocity.” The provisional list comprises Algeria, Andorra, Australia, Canada, Georgia, Japan, Monaco, Montenegro, Morocco, New Zealand, Rwanda, San Marino, Serbia, South Korea, Thailand, Tunisia, Uruguay and the Vatican, the New York Times reported on Friday. The EU said it would add China, considered one of the “acceptable countries,” if it also opens its borders to EU travelers, the newspaper reported. Backed by