People were urged to wash their hands more frequently after the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday reported an increase in the number of cases of diarrhea over the past two weeks.
CDC Epidemic Intelligence Center Director Guo Hung-wei (郭宏偉) told a news conference that 138,462 cases of diarrhea were reported last week, adding that 87 clusters of diarrhea cases have been reported nationwide in the past four weeks, with 86 percent of the clusters containing 10 or fewer cases.
Fifty-eight of the clusters tested positive for pathogens, with norovirus accounting for 97 percent of the cases, he said, adding that 71 percent of cases had occurred at restaurants and hotels.
Photo: Lin Hui-chin, Taipei Times
People often get together and enjoy meals with family and friends during the Lunar New Year holiday, so diarrhea cases often increase after the holiday, CDC physician Lin Yung-ching (林詠青) said.
The increase has been slightly lower this year, which could be because people are practicing personal disease prevention measures due to the global COVID-19 pandemic, he said.
Norovirus is highly contagious, and it can spread by people eating or drinking contaminated food and beverages, touching contaminated surfaces, putting unwashed hands in the mouth or eyes, or inhaling tiny particles of fecal matter or vomit from an infected person, he added.
Common symptoms are diarrhea and vomiting in the first three days after infection, while other symptoms such as nausea, headache, abdominal cramps and stomach and muscle pain can continue for up to 10 days, Lin said, adding that an infected person could still transmit the norovirus 48 hours after the diarrhea has ceased.
Norovirus is a non-enveloped virus, which is moderately resistant to alcohol-based disinfectants, so washing the hands thoroughly with soap and water is the most effective way of preventing infection, he said.
Lin suggested using diluted household bleach (20ml of bleach to 1,000ml of water) to disinfect toilets, door handles and other surfaces that might have been contaminated by an infected person, as well as washing and changing an infected person’s clothes and bed sheets.
The CDC advises people to wash their hands with soap and water more often, eat thoroughly cooked food and use serving utensils when sharing a meal, Lin said.
People suffering symptoms should stay at home and rest, or seek medical attention if they feel very ill, he said, adding that they should only return to work at least 48 hours after the symptoms have gone, especially workers who deal with food.
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