A postnatal center in Hsinchu has been temporarily shuttered after more than half of the infants at the facility suffered respiratory infections.
The mass infection occurred at Hui-Sheng Postnatal Center's Wenyi branch, with 17 of the 25 babies displaying symptoms such as runny noses, fever and coughing. Four of the babies were hospitalized. Hsinchu County's public health bureau was not notified of the incident until Tuesday.
The center was closed for cleaning and disinfection.
Virus culture tests conducted by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) showed that the infection was caused by the human respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), CDC deputy chief Shih Wen-yi (
Although RSV is not considered a particularly dangerous disease and incidents do not normally need to be reported to the CDC, all cases of mass infections in institutions where people live in close proximity to each other have to be reported as soon as possible, Shih said.
"More than a dozen babies did not become sick overnight," Shih said. "If the mass infection had been reported earlier, perhaps not so many babies would have been infected."
"In any institution with a high population density, incidents in which more than three people had shown signs of a communicable disease over three days have to be reported," he said.
Shih said the younger the individual, the more seriously they are affected by RSV.
In the case of the Hsinchu mass infection, adult caretakers who had spread the disease probably did not display any symptoms themselves, Shih said.
Taiwan has a number of postnatal centers, where women stay for a month to recuperate after giving birth in line with the traditional concept of "sitting out the month."
Typical rates for postnatal centers -- some of which are fitted for luxury living -- run from NT$4,000 to NT$5,000 a day.
"It's a traditional rather than a medical concept," said Hsieh Ching-hung (謝卿宏), secretary-general of the Taiwan Association of Obstetrics and Gynecology.
Hsieh said he neither encourages nor dissuades his patients from observing the practice. However, more rest is always beneficial for new mothers.
"There is some evidence that Asian women suffer from less pelvic stress than Western women, which could be because they rest more," Hsieh said. "This in turn makes it less likely that they will suffer long-term effects from giving birth, such as loss of bladder control and urinary tract infection."