CDC bracing for more flu cases over New Year’s holiday

Taipei Mayor Ko Wen-je receives is vaccinated against flu in this undated file photo. According to CDC statistics, 5.09 million doses of flu vaccine have been distributed as of Saturday since the CDC launched its annual free flu vaccination program on Oct. 15. (NOWnews)

TAIPEI (CNA) — Flu cases have been on the rise in Taiwan in recent weeks, and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) is urging people to take precautions against the flu over the New Year’s holiday, especially with lower temperatures expected.

In the week ending Dec. 22, 68,148 people sought outpatient or emergency treatment for flu-like symptoms at hospitals and clinics throughout the country, compared with 61,628 people the week before, said Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥), deputy director-general of the CDC.

During the most recent for which figures were available, 20 patients — 85 percent of whom had not received flu vaccines — developed serious flu complications, Chuang said.

The predominant flu strain over the past four weeks have been H3N2, Chuang said.

Temperatures during the New Year holiday and the rest of the coming week will be relatively low, and Chuang suggested that people who participate in New Year’s Eve festivities or events take measures to protect against the flu, such as wearing a mask and washing their hands frequently.

He also recommended avoiding crowded or poorly ventilated public places, and urged those with flu infections to stay at home and rest and avoid contact with other people.

Flu activity has been on the rise in the Northern Hemisphere, with an outbreak in Singapore reaching its peak, while Canada, South Korea, the United States and China have entered their peak seasons, Chuang said. The predominant strain in these countries has been H1N1.

According to CDC statistics, 5.09 million doses of flu vaccine have been distributed as of Saturday since the CDC launched its annual free flu vaccination program on Oct. 15.

Currently, 112,000 doses of 0.5 mL and 32,000 doses of 0.25mL are left.

By Chen Wei-ting and Evelyn Kao