The Department of Health is upgrading its influenza prevention measures by expanding the government’s distribution of antiviral medications, after a flu virus claimed three more lives last week.
Supplies of Tamiflu and Relenza, enough for about 5 million people, have been distributed to 1,300 hospitals around the nation to deal with the increasing number of patients with influenza, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) deputy director-general Chou Jih-haw (周志浩) said.
At the request of the Bureau of Medical Affairs, 23 public hospitals managed by the department are establishing special influenza clinics from today, with other hospitals following suit in the near future, Chou said.
A total of 72 new influenza cases were confirmed last week, with the virus claiming the lives of two women aged 96 and 98, and a man aged 60.
Chou said the elderly women had been vaccinated, but they died after the flu virus developed into pneumonia because of their weak immune systems.
Compared with the same period last year, the flu outbreak this year has been less severe. From last July to this month, a total of 295 diagnosed influenza-related cases and 14 deaths had been reported. In comparison, the number of flu cases diagnosed was 691 between July 2010 and January last year, with 69 fatalities.
However, CDC officials said that the number of patients with influenza-related symptoms admitted to hospital emergency departments reached 16,000 during the week ending Sunday, in contrast with 11,000 the previous week.
CDC officials warned the public to take the relevant precautions, as the influenza season is predicted to peak during the Lunar New Year holiday period.