The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday said that more than 147,000 people went to hospital outpatient clinics and emergency rooms last week with diarrhea, the highest weekly number of cases this year.
Centers deputy director-general Philip Lo (羅一鈞) said the number of weekly reported cases has continued to increase in the past four weeks.
“The number of diarrhea cases reached a record high last week and 41 of those were cluster cases, with 97 percent of those clusters caused by norovirus infection,” he said, adding that most of the clusters were in preschools and elementary schools.
Among the 108 cluster cases reported in the past four weeks, 67 percent were in schools, followed by 11 percent in restaurants and hotels, and 7 percent at campsites, the centers said.
The norovirus genotype GII.2 is new and has been most commonly spread nationwide since September last year, so many people do not have an immunity to it and it is likely to cause a more serious outbreak.
“Norovirus is easily spread by people who do not wash their hands thoroughly with soap and water after using the toilet,” he said, adding that people should wash their hands with soap and water for about 20 to 30 seconds rather than using a hand sanitizer or alcohol wipes.
“Norovirus can be contracted by touching dirty faucets or doorknobs, and people can be infected when they touch them. Parents and teachers should remind children to wash their hands frequently,” he added.
The centers urged people with norovirus not to go to work or school for at least 48 hours after becoming ill to avoid spreading the virus.
The centers also reported the nation’s first case of serious complications caused by enterovirus infection in a one-and-a-half-year-old boy in southern Taiwan.
CDC Epidemic Intelligence Center director Liu Ting-ping (劉定萍) said the boy had a fever, myoclonus (brief, shock-like jerks of a muscle or a group of muscles) and sleepiness late last month and was hospitalized for herpangina — a viral throat infection — on the day he was taken to see a doctor.
His health worsened the next day and he was diagnosed with encephalitis caused by enterovirus, she said, adding that the boy was treated immediately and recovered after being hospitalized for seven days.
Liu said the progression of enterovirus infection to serious complications can be very fast. Infants who are diagnosed with enterovirus infection should be monitored for symptoms including sleepiness, unconsciousness, poor vitality, weakness of the limbs, myoclonus, continuous vomiting, shortness of breath and rapid heartbeat, and seek medical attention as soon as possible if the symptoms occur.