The Department of Health's Centers for Disease Control (CDC) urged the public yesterday to maintain personal hygiene to avoid being infected with conjunctivitis, commonly known as pinkeye.
Responding to newspaper reports yesterday that pinkeye has spread rapidly nationwide, particularly in Keelung and Yunlin County, CDC Deputy Director-General Shih Wen-yi (
Shih said that since the conjunctivitis outbreak has not been declared an epidemic, the CDC is unable to determine exactly how many people in the country have been infected. However, he added that the center has been told by hospitals that the number of pinkeye patients has increased rapidly over the past few days.
Shih further said that the center had already contacted the Ministry of Education and epidemiologists to work out measures to cope with the situation. Hospitals under the direct jurisdiction of the Department of Health had been instructed to take measures to prevent further spread of the disease, he said.
Noting that the last time that an outbreak of conjunctivitis occurred in Taiwan was in the 1970s and that it was the result of enterovirus type S70, Shih said that this time around the outbreak also seemed to have been caused by enterovirus.
Lu Da-wen (呂大文), director of the the Ophthalmology Department of Tri-Service General Hospital, said that pinkeye is a highly contagious epidemic disease which can be caused by infections (from bacteria and viruses), allergies, or substances that irritate the eyes. Judging from recent cases he has treated, he said he believed the current pinkeye outbreak is related mainly to enterovirus.
Meanwhile, Chiu Hsiao-wen (邱孝文), deputy director of Yunlin County's Bureau of Education, discounted a report in yesterday's China Times that more than 1,000 people in Yunlin have been infected. He said that, as of yesterday morning, the bureau had not been notified by any school in the county of an outbreak of the disease.
Kao Kun-yu (
Kao called for students, particularly young children, and all members of the public to seek medical help if they suspect they have pinkeye -- symptoms of which include inflammation of the conjunctiva, the clear membrane that covers the white part of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids.
To avoid being infected, Kao said children should be taught to wash their hands often with water and soap. They should also not share eye-droppers, tissues, wash cloths, towels or pillowcases, Kao added.