Flu season taking a toll

MORE THAN A COLD::With 74 influenza related deaths so far, state-funded vaccinations will remain available until the end of next month for those exhibiting symptoms

By Shelley Huang  /  Staff Reporter

Fri, Feb 18, 2011 - Page 2

The recent outbreak of influenza has hit the nation hard, with many patients struggling for weeks to recover and some experiencing pulmonary failure, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said yesterday.

Data from the CDC for last week showed 15 new flu-related deaths, bringing the total number of deaths from influenza since the beginning of the flu season to 74.

The CDC said emergency rooms in hospitals across the country were flooded with patients -exhibiting flu-like symptoms during the Lunar New Year holidays, a situation that only became worse at regular outpatient services after the holidays were over.

The number of patients at hospitals rose by about 20 percent.

CDC Deputy Director-General Chou Jih-haw (周志浩) said that as people often confused seasonal flu with the common cold, many returned to work or attended social events before they had recovered, thereby spreading the virus.

Chou said people with severe coughing should consult a doctor to avoid complications, such as pulmonary failure.

The majority of virus-induced respiratory illnesses involve variants of the seasonal flu and about four in five people who come down with the flu are infected with the 2009 H1N1 strain, also known as swine flu, Chou said.

Although people who have already been infected develop immunity within two to three weeks, Chou said, they are nevertheless advised to rest and drink plenty of water to help the immune system build up its defenses again.

The CDC said it would extend to the end of March the offer of publicly-funded Tamiflu to patients with high fever for two consecutive days and those who live with the patient and have developed flu-like symptoms.