As the temperature gradually decreases, influenza viruses thrive. Although influenza activity in Taiwan has remained at a low level, severe cases and deaths associated with influenza infection have continued to occur. Hence, the public is urged to remain vigilant for influenza infection. Vaccination remains the single most effective way to prevent influenza infection. On November 20, 2018, the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (Taiwan CDC) specially invited 2 medical officers, Dr. Wei Hsin-yi (魏欣怡) and Dr. Liu Yu-lun (劉宇倫), and their children to receive the influenza vaccine. In addition, they were also asked to illustrate the threat influenza viruses pose to infants and children from the doctor’s perspective and the importance of influenza vaccination.
Dr. Wei pointed out that infants and children are at a higher risk of developing serious influenza-related complications such as pneumonia, encephalitis, myocarditis and pericarditis compared to adults. Therefore, she advised the public to ensure infants and children at home receive the influenza vaccine every year to ward off infection and reduce the risk of developing related complications and death. Dr. Liu stressed that receiving the influenza vaccine does not merely protect the individual from influenza, but also the family and friends around him/her. As a result, the more people that receive the influenza vaccine, the better the herd immunity. Moreover, it takes time for a person’s body to develop a full immune response to the vaccine. The public is urged to take infants and children to receive the influenza vaccine as soon as possible, preferably before the influenza season. In addition, children aged 8 and below who will be receiving their first influenza vaccine will need to receive 2 doses of the vaccine, administered at least 4 weeks apart, to ensure the development of a full immune response.
Since the beginning of this year’s seasonal influenza vaccination campaign, as of November 18, a total of 3,910,000 doses of influenza vaccine have been administered. During the same period last year, a total of 3,750,000 doses of the vaccine were administered. According to the disease surveillance data compiled by Taiwan CDC, the overall influenza activity in Taiwan has remained at a low level. From November 11 to 17, the number of people seeking ER and outpatient consultation for influenza-like illness was 54,673, which is slightly higher than that the previous week. Additionally, 1 new death associated with influenza infection reported last week was confirmed in an over 90-year-old female who resided in central Taiwan and had medical history of chronic conditions. The case was infected with H3N2. Since October 1, 2018, a cumulative total of 71 cases of influenza complications, including 45 cases caused by H3N2 (63%), have been confirmed. Among the 5 deaths associated with influenza infection, 3 were caused by H1N1 and 2 were caused by H3N2. During the past 4 weeks, H3N2 and H1N1 have been the dominant strains circulating in the community. Recently, influenza activity in temperate countries in the northern hemisphere has remained low, except Canada and Korea that have both reported influenza activity above the epidemic threshold. Thus far, the dominant strain in most countries has been H1N1. However, Hong Kong, Singapore and Europe have all reported H1N1 and H3N2 as the dominant strains circulating in their communities.
Taiwan CDC once again reminds the public to receive the annual seasonal influenza vaccine, practice good personal hygiene such as paying additional attention to respiratory hygiene and cough etiquette, and avoid visiting crowded and poorly ventilated public places to prevent influenza. In addition, once influenza-like symptoms develop, infected individuals should put on a surgical mask, seek immediate medical attention, rest at home, and only resume school or work after full recovery to prevent the further spread of the virus that could lead to outbreaks. If signs of severe complications such as breathing difficulty, shortness of breath, cyanosis, blood-stained mucus or thickening of mucus, chest pain, change of consciousness, or low blood pressure develop, please seek immediate medical attention at a large hospital to ensure prompt treatment. For more information, please visit the Taiwan CDC website at http://www.cdc.gov.tw or call the toll-free Communicable Disease Reporting and Consultation Hotline, 1922 (or 0800-001922).
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