Control Yuan member Peter Chang (張武修) on Sunday urged the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to set up an integrated system for keeping records of foreign students and residents’ physical exams to better prevent and control the spread of infectious diseases from abroad.
Statistics from 2014 to the end of last year showed that between 626 and 733 imported cases of the top five infectious diseases — dengue fever, amebiasis, measles, shigellosis and rubella — were recorded each year, Chang said.
In the first six months of this year alone, there were 405 cases, or 65 percent of the total recorded last year, he said.
There has been a “clear rise” in the number of imported cases of infectious diseases due to more frequent international activity, he added.
The CDC monitors the international spread of infectious diseases primarily through the WHO’s International Health Regulations and communication channels set up with a few nations or by searching the official Web sites of foreign government agencies, he said.
It has yet to integrate with the government’s New Southbound Policy to improve its ability to prevent and control outbreaks while boosting the soft power and international status of Taiwan’s healthcare, he said.
Since the New Southbound Policy was introduced in 2016, more than 320,000 foreign nationals have traveled to Taiwan each year to study, work or live here, he said.
However, the physical examinations that the CDC requires for entry to Taiwan only include items such as a chest X-ray for tuberculosis and screening for syphilis, measles and rubella, he said.
Furthermore, the results are only reported as “passed” or “failed,” without a record of the individual’s medical history of infectious diseases or other information, making it difficult to fully understand their health status, he said.
The CDC should follow the examples of the US, Canada, Australia and other developed nations, especially when it comes to health requirements for permanent residents, he said.
In the absence of a system that integrates records of foreign nationals’ medical exam results in the possession of the ministries of the interior, education and labor, the CDC should build a more effective information platform for their consolidation and application, he said.
Such a platform would make it easier to monitor the outbreak of infectious diseases in other nations and make better use of those health records, he said.
The CDC should also give equal attention to cases where applicants were denied visas because they failed their medical exams, he said.
It should analyze the causes behind those failed exams to make better preparations to prevent and control infectious diseases, he said.
Effective prevention and control of infectious diseases hinges on cooperation between government agencies, he said, adding that he hoped sharing resources and hosting joint meetings could lower the risks of the spread of infectious diseases.
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