Two hundred and sixty people with COVID-19 were hospitalized and 31 deaths related to the virus were reported last week — the highest numbers in four weeks, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said yesterday, adding that cases are expected to peak next month.
CDC Epidemic Intelligence Center Director Guo Hung-wei (郭宏偉) said that of the 260 people hospitalized last week with moderate to severe COVID-19, 98 percent had not received the Omicron XBB.1.5-adapted COVID-19 vaccine.
Among the people hospitalized this year, 78 percent were aged 65 or older, while most of the those who were hospitalized or died have or had underlying health conditions or did not get a booster shot, he said.
Photo: Lin Hui-chin, Taipei Times
CDC Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞) said that it was the most hospitalized cases in five weeks and the most deaths in four weeks.
The centers’ most recent simulation predicts that COVID-19 cases are to peak in mid-to-late January at an expected 18,000 to 20,000 cases per day.
CDC physician Lin Yung-ching (林詠青) said the youngest person to die of COVID-19 last week was a man in his 40s who had arrhythmia and hypertension, and had not received the Omicron XBB.1.5-adapted COVID-19 vaccine.
The man experienced shortness of breath for two days in the middle of last month, and had a fever, shortness of breath, a rapid heartbeat, arrhythmia and hypotension when he sought treatment, Lin said, adding that his heart, lungs and liver were not functioning properly.
As the man was in cardiogenic shock and had multiple organ failure, he was admitted to an intensive care unit, but his condition worsened and he died four days after being hospitalized, Lin said.
“The case shows that while most severe COVID-19 cases and deaths were in elderly people, middle-aged people can also fall victim to severe illness or death from COVID-19,” Lin said, adding that the CDC is still urging people with underlying health conditions or chronic illnesses to get vaccinated.
Lo said that although many people believe COVID-19 is similar to a common cold, more than 7,000 COVID-19 related deaths have been reported so far this year, and the virus is likely to be the seventh-leading cause of deaths this year, after diabetes and hypertension.
Meanwhile, Guo said that 50,830 hospital visits for flu-like illnesses were reported last week, and of the respiratory viruses identified at labs over the past four weeks, influenza viruses accounted for 31 percent, followed by adenoviruses at 30 percent and parainfluenza viruses at 17 percent, while respiratory syncytial viruses and COVID-19 are also spreading.
There were also 17 cases of severe flu complications and four flu-related deaths reported last week, he said.
On Nov. 26, the CDC began encouraging travelers from China, Hong Kong and Macau with respiratory symptoms to voluntarily get tested for respiratory pathogens at airport quarantine stations upon arrival.
Lo said that 88 travelers had taken the test as of Sunday.
Of the 68 people who tested positive for something, 48 (70.6 percent) had the flu, followed by nine people with COVID-19, while there was one person who contracted the flu and COVID-19 at the same time, he said, adding that adenoviruses, rhinoviruses, parainfluenza viruses and coronaviruses were also detected.
CDC data showed that as of Sunday, about 5.94 million doses of the 6.58 million government-funded flu vaccines had been administered, and the vaccine coverage rate among elderly people was about 49.2 percent.
As respiratory viruses continue to circulate and with Christmas and New Year’s around the corner, with more people expected to be attending events or traveling, eligible recipients are encouraged to get vaccinated against the flu and COVID-19, the CDC said.
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