The severity of an influenza epidemic in the nation is escalating, as the total number of reported cases reached 37,175 last week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said yesterday, urging people to seek medical attention as soon as possible should they experience any symptoms.
According to the centers’ statistics released yesterday, 18 cases of severe flu-related complications and four flu-related deaths were confirmed last week, bringing to 196 the number of cases of severe complications and deaths nationwide since July last year.
CDC physician Lin Yung-ching (林詠青) said three of the four deaths last week were adults aged between 39 and 56 who had chronic diseases and had not been vaccinated, while the other case was a 22-month-old boy.
The baby had cerebral palsy and, despite a vaccination, developed a fever on Dec. 25 last year and was taken to see a doctor, Lin said, adding that the child was later found unconscious with hyperspasmia.
The baby was placed in intensive care after being diagnosed with influenza on Wednesday last week, but died of pneumonia and complications from sepsis on the same day, Lin said, adding that the baby was the youngest death caused by severe flu-related complications since last year.
CDC Deputy Director-General Chou Jih-haw (周志浩) said the baby caught the virus from a family member, adding that people should tell doctors their contact history to avoid delays in diagnoses and treatment.
“Vaccination is still the best way to prevent influenza, but it is more effective in adults than in babies under two years of age,” Lin said, adding that people with flu-like symptoms should seek medical attention as soon as possible and pay special attention to signs that complications are developing.
Lin said symptoms of severe complications include: pneumonia; myocarditis (inflammation of heart muscle); encephalitis (inflammation of the brain); labored breathing and shortness of breath; bloody or thick phlegm; chest pain; altered states of consciousness; hypotension; and a high fever lasting longer than 72 hours.
There were 79,953 government-funded influenza vaccines in stock as of yesterday, Chou said, adding that the government has extended the list of conditions for eligible recipients to people older than 50 with cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, HIV or chronic liver, heart, kidney or lung diseases.
Chou urged those eligible to receive a government-funded influenza vaccination as soon as possible.
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