The nation’s weekly reported enterovirus cases continued to increase last week, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said yesterday, while urging people who qualify for a government-funded vaccine against seasonal flu to get vaccinated as early as possible, as it estimated that supplies would run out at the end of the month.
The centers’ disease monitoring statistics showed a total of 18,019 cases of enterovirus infection last week, which exceeded the 16,474 cases logged the week before. It is the seventh consecutive week in which the number of cases exceeded the epidemic threshold.
Epidemic Intelligence Center Director Liu Ting-ping (劉定萍) said the reported cases were mostly type A coxsackieviruses, which ususally cause mild symptoms, with only a few sporadic cases of enterovirus 71 infection, which can cause more serious complications.
There were no cases with serious complications reported last week, but a total of 29 had been logged nationwide as of Monday, she said, adding that 23 were enterovirus 71 infections.
CDC Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said usually the number of enterovirus cases drops during the winter, but because the average temperature has been slightly warmer this winter the number of reported cases has continued to increase.
The centers said that as enteroviruses are highly infectious, parents are advised to change their clothes and wash their hands thoroughly with soap before hugging their children, and to remember to wash their children’s hands with soap before they eat.
Children less than five years old appear to be most at risk for enterovirus infection and typical symptoms include developing ulcers and blisters on the hands, feet and mouth, sometimes without a fever occuring, the centers said.
Meanwhile, as several cases of H5N6 avian influenza have been reported in China, Japan and South Korea, people should take precautionary measures, especially when approaching wild birds and poultry.
It urged people who work in the poultry industry to take extra preventive measures, such as wearing a surgical mask, and to seek urgent medical attention if acute respiratory symptoms occur.
The public should avoid contact with wild birds and poultry, picking up dead birds or eating uncooked poultry or eggs, it said.
Liu said that 42 serious flu complications and three flu-related deaths were reported last week, with 22 of those being the H3N2 influenza strain.
CDC physician Lin Yung-ching (林詠青) said the three people who died, aged between 79 and 87, all had existing chronic diseases, while two had not been vaccinated against seasonal flu this year.
Chuang said that 5.48 million government-funded flu vaccines have been administered and the remaining 520,000 vaccines are likely to run out before the end of the month, while the remaining vaccines in some counties could be used up by end of this week.
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