Fri, Apr 06, 2007 - Page 2 News List

CDC confirms first hemophilus influenza death

YOUNG AND OLD The virus, which typically is only fatal to children five years of age or less, can lead to paralysis, mental retardation and epilepsy

By Angelica Oung  /  STAFF REPORTER

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday confirmed the country's first hemophilus influenza Type b (Hib) death this year.

The 90-year-old woman from Kaohsiung County fell ill on March 21 and died the next day.

Seventeen suspected cases of Hib have been reported to the CDC so far this year, six of which have been confirmed. Over the past five years, the CDC has received a total of 111 confirmed reports of Hib cases, 77 of which involving people aged five and under.

The Kaohsiung case was atypical, CDC deputy director Lin Ding (林頂) said. The virus typically only proves fatal to children under the age of five. However, the elderly are also vulnerable.

Early symptoms of Hib are flu-like. Different symptoms, including meningitis and pneumonia, may occur as the disease progresses, Lin said. Permanent effects can include partial paralysis, visual and auditory impediments, mental retardation and epilepsy.

"It is likely that the woman, who was quite old, died from several causes, of which Hib was only one," he added.

The woman's case was reported to the CDC on March 27 and confirmed on March 30.

After monitoring the people who had been in contact with the victim, local health authorities concluded there no reason to suspect the case was indicative of a serious outbreak.

An effective vaccine against Hib is available in the country, but it is not covered by health insurance.

Lin said there are plans to add the vaccine to the routine inoculations given to young Taiwanese.

In countries where immunization is routine, such as the US, Hib has been effectively eradicated.

For now, the CDC has called upon the public to avoid overcrowded or badly ventilated environments and to visit a doctor immediately if they come down with flu-like symptoms.

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