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.
UPDATED: 11/16/09 7:30
Another article about Taiwan - They cancel 900 Classes
According to the Central Epidemic Command Centre (CECC), 919 classes involving 439 schools were suspended, comprising 0.67 per cent of total classes nationwide.
The same statistic passed the 500 mark less than 10 days ago after weeks loitering around 300.
Despite signs of a once-again widening epidemic, the CECC continued to put its back behind the effectiveness of the “325” benchmark, which stipulates class suspension guidelines.
Officials also indicated that there is no need at present to penalize those who fail to comply with “325”.
Deputy director-general Chou Zhi-hao of the Centres for Disease Control (CDC) previously said that the agency will not rule out subjecting disobliging schools and parents to fines between NT$3,000 and NT$15,000 in accordance with the Communicable Disease Control Act.
His remarks came amid media reports of schools and parents taking advantage of loopholes in the “325” benchmark or condoning non-compliance despite multiple infections seen in classrooms.
The “325” benchmark states that should any classroom over a period of three days observe two infections, the entire class would adjourn for a period of five days, holidays included.
Infections that are reported by parents from home are not incorporated into the count.
Elementary school closure
Taipei County health officials Thursday confirmed reports of an elementary school that will shut down temporarily after 20 per cent of its student body was confirmed as carrying the flu. Classes will resume on November 1, said the Public Health Bureau (PHB) in Taipei County.
Health officials said 45 children out of the entire student population of 230 at Ping Lin Elementary School tested positive for influenza A via the rapid flu test, affecting over 12 classrooms.
Ten of the classes qualify for class suspension under the “325” benchmark, but the Taipei County Education Bureau advised and authorized discontinuance of all classes as to prevent flare-ups, said the PHB.
CDC to receive local vaccine
The sole local vaccine manufacturer will deliver the first batch of A(H1N1) flu vaccine today, which will be administered pending approval from health authorities, local media reported Thursday.
Ignatius Wei, general manager of Adimmune Corp, said he is pleased with the preliminary results of the vaccine's clinical study in humans, citing the quality as comparable to those made by foreign pharmaceutical companies.
Only two of the 300 participants showed signs of fever, one of the adverse effects of flu vaccines, Wei said. He added that the second clinical study in adult human subjects will be completed before Nov. 15, and results of the first study in children should be available next Monday.
A(H1N1) vaccinations roll out November 1, with typhoon victims and medical care personnel given priority.