The number of acute gastroenteritis cases in Taiwan and several neighboring nations is on the rise, with a majority of the cases caused by norovirus infection, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said yesterday, urging the public to maintain proper hygiene, especially during the upcoming holiday.
“Outbreaks of norovirus have recently been reported in Japan and South Korea. We have also found an increasing number of cases of the new genotype GII.2 norovirus infection in our nation,” CDC Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞) said.
The center’s monitoring data showed that while the most of the norovirus infections in previous years were of the GII.4 genotype, cases of GII.2 group infections have been on the rise since September last year, accounting for about 60 percent of all group infections reported from September to last month.
“Symptoms of the viral infection include diarrhea, fever and gastroenteritis,” Lo said.
Weekly reports of infections have seen an increase in the number of cases, including 4,400 last week alone, with most group infections affecting children in preschools and elementary schools, he said.
The genotype GII.2 norovirus is relatively new and most people might not have immunity against it, he said.
The virus could spread through water or food, especially at year-end feasts or gatherings during the Lunar New Year holiday, he added
A CDC food-borne disease and pathogens monitoring and prevention program, which started in 2014, showed that the risks of norovirus infection would be lower if children would always wash their hands before eating, caregivers would avoid taking on cases of children with diarrhea at the same time that they are taking care of healthy children, and babies had been fed with breast milk in the past week.
“We advise people to frequently wash their hands, practice good food hygiene and refrain from eating raw seafood,” Lo said, adding that people who suffer from diarrhea and symptoms of gastroenteritis — such as nausea, vomiting, stomachache, muscle pain — should avoid preparing food to prevent the virus from spreading.
The centers also urged the public to take precautionary measures against mosquitoes when visiting areas where Chikungunya fever has spread, following reports that a Taiwanese couple contracted the disease after visiting Bali, Indonesia, last month.
The agency said that 94 cases of Chikungunya fever have been confirmed in Taiwan since 2007, and all were imported, mostly from Southeast Asia, including Indonesia (54 cases) and the Philippines (15 cases).
The monsoon season in Indonesia is from December to April, so people who are planning to visit the area are advised to take preventive measures against mosquito bites, the centers said.
Travelers to the area who suffer from a fever, headache, nausea, vomiting, rashes, muscle or joint pain should also seek medical attention as soon as possible and report their travel history to a doctor, it said.