The number of A(H1N1) infections diagnosed in Taiwan last week was put at approximately 12,000 from estimates based on computer simulations, prompting health authorities to order those who are sick to wear masks when visiting medical facilities, said the top official at Taiwan's health department said.
Yaung Chih-liang, the minister of the Cabinet-level health department, pointed out that the aforementioned figure alone makes up one-third of the total of infected persons to date, which stands at approximately over 38,000.
But officials at the Central Epidemic Command Centre (CECC) quickly reiterated the new flu strain's relatively moderate severity and noted that only 44 severe cases and five deaths have occurred since the initial occurrence of this flu.
These cases that had developed from common flu symptoms into respiratory infections include 29 people who have been discharged from hospitals, five in the general ward, another five under intensive medical care, and five deaths, said officials.
Most people have mild bouts of the disease, with 70 per cent of the affected persons making full recoveries without reliance on antiviral medications, said the CECC.
Meanwhile, the Centre for Disease Control (CDC) confirmed another acute A(H1N1) case, involving a 44-year-old man with underlying illnesses and a hypertension history.
He remains in the general ward of an undisclosed hospital, said local media.
The CDC said Tuesday that in future, anyone with flu-like symptoms will be required to wear face masks when visiting hospitals and clinics.
Should transmission grow more rampant and cases of medical staff reported, the agency will not rule out the likelihood of mandating the wearing of masks on hospital premises as well as limiting visiting hours and the number of visitors, said the CDC.
The agency may also instruct the islandwide closure of all food courts and shops in hospitals, CDC officials remarked.
Steve Kuo, the head of the CDC, indicated that 8,000 people died from respiratory infections last year and added that it is a misconception that only infections related to the new strain would result in death.
At present, the number of those who have died from respiratory infections in the last week has not differed significantly from the same figure for the same period last year, Kuo said.
But the agency will not rule out the possibility of the figure trending upwards to take into account the current epidemic, added Kuo.
According to Yaung, the country has successfully slowed down the flu epidemic, allowing officials more time to round up resources to bulk up epidemic control capabilities.
But given that peak season is just around the corner, health authorities have placed priority on reining in proliferation of the disease as well as boosting treatment so as to lower the scale of outbreaks, said Yaung.
Health minister Yaung Chih-liang echoed Tuesday consensus of medical experts who have singled out children between the ages 6 to 18 as one of the high-risk groups.
As such, Yaung said this part of the demographic should take precedence in inoculation campaigns, second to those residing in areas devastated by Typhoon Morakot.
Vaccinating the 19 to 50 age group as well as children under six would then follow the two groups, added the official.
It was previously reported that the novel virus has a tendency to target the young and healthy, who do not appear to be equipped with the antibodies to fight the disease.
5m booster shots
On the vaccination front, local vaccine manufacturer Adimmune Corp. announced Tuesday the completion of five million booster shots by mid September, and are on track for a November release for public use, local media reported.
Ignatius Wei, the president and CEO of Adimmune Corp, explained that this first batch will complete safety checks and necessary clinical trials by late October.
A second batch of 1.5 million inoculation shots will be delivered by the end of November and then another 3.5 million by the end of December, Wei said.
He was cited as expressing confidence in Adimmune in being able to adhere to the said timeline.
Yaung reassured that despite the progress at Adimmune, officials would continue to seek procurement from international vaccine manufacturers to add to emergency reserves.