Enterovirus culprit in pinkeye outbreak


TAIPEI, Taiwan — The Center for Disease Control (CDC) under the Department of Health confirmed Thursday that an enterovirus is the culprit responsible for the current outbreak of conjunctivitis, commonly known as pinkeye, among elementary students.

CDC Deputy Director-General Shih Wen-yi confirmed that the enterovirus, known as Coxackievirus type 24, is the culprit in the current outbreak of pinkeye among elementary students in the northern city of Keelung. Shih said Coxackieviruses type 24 has been discovered in all samples taken from five of the young pinkeye patients from Keelung, proving that the pinkeye outbreak was related to enteroviral infection.

Shih urged people, particularly children, to wash their hands regularly to avoid being infected with enteroviruses, which can cause pinkeye. He said that although the pinkeye outbreak has significantly subsided in Keelung, it has not completely run its course, so people should remain alert.

Shih said that since the conjunctivitis outbreak has not been declared an epidemic, the CDC is unable to determine exactly how many people in the country have been infected.

Coxackieviruses previously struck Taiwan in 1985, 1986, 1988 and 1989, but this year’s outbreak is the first after a hiatus of 18 years, Shih said. He added that Taiwan’s last outbreak of pinkeye was in the 1970s, and that it was a result of enterovirus type S70.

Pinkeye is a highly contagious disease which can be caused by infections (such as bacteria and viruses), allergies, substances that irritate the eyes, or enteroviral infection.

Shih called for students, particularly young children, and all members of the public to seek medical aid if they are infected with pinkeye — an inflammation of the conjunctiva, the clear membrane that covers the white part of the eye and the inner surface of the eyelids.

To avoid infection, Shih said, kids should be taught to wash their hands often with soap and water. Also, they should not share eye droppers, tissues, wash cloths, towels, or pillowcases with others, he added.