Reports of enterovirus 71 (EV71) infection, which can develop into serious systemic complications, have been increasing over the past few weeks to a total of 89 confirmed cases this year, the highest level for the period in four years, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said yesterday.
Hospitals and clinics nationwide last week received 11,435 visits for enterovirus infections, a 3.5 percent weekly increase, as the peak season of the disease continues, the agency said.
The main circulating enterovirus detected recently is the Coxsackie A virus, but EV71 infections have been increasing over the past four weeks, CDC Epidemic Intelligence Center Director Liu Ting-ping (劉定萍) said.
This year’s 89 confirmed cases of EV71 infection include 22 cases in Hualien County and 11 cases each in Taoyuan and Taitung and Yilan counties, she said, adding that some patients experienced mild symptoms.
There have been 12 cases of serious complications from an enterovirus infection this year, of which six were EV71 infections, the agency said.
Due to the immaturity of their immune system, children aged five or younger are at higher risk of serious complications from enterovirus infections, including death meningitis, encephalitis, myocarditis, pericarditis and pneumonia, Cathay General Hospital pediatrician Wang Li-chun (王麗君) said.
People with young children at home and those who work at child educational facilities should pay special attention to children’s hand hygiene and ask them to frequently wash their hands thoroughly with soap, the CDC said.
Children who have been diagnosed with an enterovirus infection should be temporarily separated from other children to avoid direct transmission, the agency said.
Enterovirus infections can be transmitted from mother to child during childbirth if a pregnant woman is infected shortly before delivery, Wang said.
Pregnant women should also maintain good hand and respiratory hygiene before and after delivery, she said, adding that they should inform their doctor if they experience symptoms 14 days prior to or after giving birth.
If young children exhibit signs of serious complications, which might include sleepiness, unconsciousness, lethargy, weakness of the limbs, involuntary twitching of muscles, continuous vomiting, shortness of breath and a rapid heartbeat, they should be taken to receive medical treatment immediately, she added.
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