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Public urged to seek prompt medical attention when flu-like symptoms develop to decrease risk of complications

According to the surveillance data compiled by the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (Taiwan CDC), as of February 21, 2011, the total number of invasive pneumococcal disease cases confirmed in Taiwan is 178, which reflects a significant increase over the numbers of invasive pneumococcal disease cases confirmed during the same period in the past 3 years (145, 168 and 135). Further, seven cases have died this year. Among them, one has been confirmed to be a case of influenza complications and the others are cases with lower immunity due to cancer, heart disease, stroke or alcohol dependence.

Respiratory diseases are common in winter and spring, which could explain the increase in the number of invasive pneumococcal disease cases occurred this year. In addition, the weather has gotten relatively cold after the Chinese New Year, which likely enhances the transmission of viruses such as influenza virus and adenovirus that cause upper respiratory tract infection. When a person has a viral respiratory infection, his immunity is lowered, making him more prone to developing secondary bacterial infection and then serious complications. Taiwan CDC urges the public to seek medical attention immediately when upper respiratory symptoms such as influenza-like illness develop to reduce the chance of complications and death.

During the influenza season, public is advised to take precautions against influenza and invasive pneumococcal disease by paying attention to respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette to lower the risk of infection. Nevertheless, vaccination is the single most effective way to prevent influenza and invasive pneumococcal disease. Beginning 2009, Taiwan CDC has required at-risk children having one of the six major diseases such as immunodeficiency who are aged below 5 to receive a pneumococcal conjugate vaccine and the target population now also includes children aged below 5 in low-income households and children who were born after 2010 and reside in remote areas such as mountain areas and offshore islands. On the other hand, beginning 2008, Taiwan CDC has offered elderly aged over 75 in the nation free 23-valent pneumococcal capsular polysaccharide vaccines. Currently, the shots remain available at local health bureaus. The public is urged to get vaccinated.


Source: Centers for Disease Control, R.O.C.(Taiwan)