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Influenza activity continues to increase; Public and physicians urged to maintain vigilance against influenza

Source:Centers for Disease Control, R.O.C.(Taiwan) On January 10, 2012, the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (Taiwan CDC) announced two new deaths caused by influenza-related complications in Taiwan. They respectively were a 58-year-old female and a 71-year-old female who resided in New Taipei City (formerly known as Taipei County). Both did not receive the influenza vaccine and had a chronic medical condition of diabetes. After becoming infected with influenza, both cases died from pneumonia-associated septic shock and multiple organ failure. They were both infected with influenza type B virus. To decrease risk of influenza-related complications, the Department of Health (DOH) urges the public to rest at home and avoid visiting public places when sick with influenza, especially people at high risk of developing influenza-related complications such as infants, young children, elderly and people with chronic diseases. If symptoms such as shortness of breath, breathing difficulty, cyanosis, blood-stained mucus or thickening of mucus, chest pain, change of consciousness, and low blood pressure or high fever that persists for more than 48 hours develop, please seek appropriate medical advice at a hospital immediately to facilitate prompt administration of treatment. To timely provide the influenza antiviral drugs to target individuals and prevent the occurrence of complications and deaths, local health bureaus have been actively designating locations to dispatch antiviral drugs. As of now, a total of 2,203 locations have been designated to dispatch the drug in the nation, which is about 1000 more than that in December last year. According to the surveillance data compiled by Taiwan CDC, thus far this influenza season, a total of 442 confirmed cases of influenza-related complications have been reported (748 cases were reported during the same period last year), including 20 deaths (76 deaths were reported during the same period last year), giving an incidence rate of 19.06 cases per million population and a fatality rate of 0.86 per million population. Although both the incidence rate and the fatality rate are approximately half of the last year’s rates, DOH once again reminds physicians to stay vigilant for suspected cases of influenza and are urged to consider a diagnosis of influenza if a patient develops complications such as pneumonia, myocarditis, encephalitis, rhabdomyolysis, renal failure or other severe problems caused by bacterial infection. In addition, influenza can result in worsening of chronic medical conditions. Hence, physicians are urged to look for signs and symptoms of influenza-related complications when diagnosing patients with influenza-like illness to reduce risks of complications and deaths. For more information on influenza and related prevention measures, pleas visit the Taiwan CDC’s website: http://www.cdc.gov.tw/english/index.aspx or call the toll-free Communicable Disease Case Reporting and Consultation Hotline, 1922, operated by Taiwan CDC.