Thu, Jan 01, 2009 - Page 2 News List

CDC confident hepatitis A not a severe threat

By Shelley Huang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Reacting to an article raising the specter of a hepatitis A outbreak in Taiwan amid increasing two-way travel resulting from direct flights across the Taiwan Strait, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said yesterday that Taiwan would not see an outbreak because it “has good general sanitary conditions.”

A report published yesterday in the Chinese-language Liberty Times (the Taipei Times’ sister paper) said that increased travel caused by direct flights across the strait — especially Chinese coming to Taiwan — would increase the risks of Taiwanese under 30 years of age of contracting the hepatitis A virus.

The report said that because most Taiwanese under the age of 30 do not have immunity to hepatitis A, the increased number of Chinese visiting Taiwan could increase exposure to the virus and lead to an epidemic.

The virus can cause hepatitis A, an acute liver disease that can last from a few weeks to several months. It is usually transmitted by the fecal-oral route via contaminated food or drinking water.

“Our health facilities are basically up to par,” CDC Deputy Director Lin Ting (林頂) said.

“Some amount of risk may be involved,” however, if visitors from China are involved in the culinary profession, as the virus could potentially contaminate food or water if the chef who prepared the food was a carrier of the virus, Lin said.

Lin recommended that people concerned about contracting the virus receive a hepatitis A vaccination, which is 95 percent effective and has helped control outbreaks worldwide.

The shots must be received twice. The first shot provides protection for about half a year and the second remains effective for about 20 years. As the vaccination is not covered by the healthcare system, two shots can cost between NT$3,000 and NT$4,000 altogether.

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