Thu, Feb 03, 2005 - Page 2 News List

DOH urges China travelers to obtain meningitis vaccine

HEALTH Ahead of the New Year holiday and in light of a recent increase in meningitis cases in China, officials warned travelers to be cautious

CNA AND AP , TAIPEI

Department of Health (DOH) officials cautioned people planning to travel to China yesterday about an outbreak of epidemic cerebrospinal meningitis in Anhui, Hebei, Henan, Jiangsu and Sichuan provinces.

The officials urged travelers to avoid going to crowded places to prevent infection and to consider vaccination if they plan to stay in China for an extended period.

Two Weeks Prior

According to the DOH, 800 to 1,000 doses of vaccine are available through any Center for Disease Control (CDC) office and should be obtained two weeks before departure.

The CDC's deputy director-general, Lin Ting (林頂), said the DOH has notified the Veterans Affairs Commission to pass on the message to retired soldiers who plan to visit their relatives in China during the Lunar New Year holiday.

Lin pointed out that the symptoms of epidemic cerebrospinal meningitis are similar to those of flu -- including fever, headaches, nausea and vomiting -- ?and that treatment with antibiotics can help lower the fatality rate of the disease.

Prevalence

With a prevalence rate of less than 100 in every 100,000 people, China is not one of the epidemic areas of epidemic cerebrospinal meningitis announced by the World Health Organization, according to the DOH.

While approximately 2,200 to 2,600 cases of epidemic cerebrospinal meningitis were reported annually from 2001 to 2004 in China, a total of 546 cases have been reported over the past month.

In Taiwan, 20 to 45 cases are reported every year.

The illness is spread through contact with an infected person's respiratory or throat secretions, but is not as contagious as a cold or the flu. The death rate can be as high as 10 to 15 percent.

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