Parents of young children should remain vigilant in their efforts to prevent disease as the number of confirmed serious enterovirus cases has increased by 14 in the past three days, a Department of Health (DOH) official warned yesterday.
“The number of confirmed cases of severe enterovirus infection in Taiwan this year reached 107 as of 5pm Friday, and four of them have died, “ said Chou Chih-hao (周志浩), deputy director of the DOH’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC).
The figures showed that the number of confirmed serious enterovirus cases has risen swiftly since Tuesday, when the number was 93, with two fatalities in just three days.
Chou said one of the newly confirmed deaths involved a baby girl on the island of Lanyu (蘭嶼). The 15-month-old exhibited symptoms of suspected enterovirus and died last Sunday, Chou said.
“Laboratory tests have confirmed that the girl fell victim to a serious enterovirus infection,” Chou said.
The other new fatal case was a one-year-old boy residing in Tainan City, Chou said. The boy was checked into a clinic on May 14 after developing a fever. He was transferred to Chi Mei Medical Center on May 16 after his condition worsened and he died on Thursday.
“Investigations found that the boy’s two-year-old sister and two young cousins living under the same roof had been infected with enterovirus earlier this year, but all three had recovered,” Chou said.
Enterovirus infections are the most common cause of aseptic meningitis and can cause deadly diseases, especially in infants and those with compromised immune systems.
Chou said that all four of the patients who died fell victim to the same enterovirus strain — EV71. The first enterovirus death occurred in March in Yunlin County and the second occurred early this month in Kaohsiung County, CDC records showed.
Noting that the spread of enterovirus tends to peak in mid-June, Chou said that the recent developments could be a bad omen. He urged parents with young children to be on guard against the disease.
Meanwhile, Liu Ching-chuan (劉清泉), director of the infectious disease control department at Cheng Kung National University Hospital, said this year might see a major enterovirus outbreak, with the number of serious EV71 cases surging to as many as 300 by next month.
Liu said that Taiwan seems to see an enterovirus outbreak about once every 10 years and that this could just be part of the cycle. In 1998, Liu said, Taiwan recorded 405 serious EV71 cases with 78 fatalities, while in 2000, only a few cases were documented and there had been no serious enterovirus outbreak since 2005. Liu said parents need not panic over a possible outbreak.
“Given progress in Taiwan’s medical standards, the disease can be cured and a major outbreak could also be brought under control as long as parents keep vigilant and do not delay in having their children treated,” he said.