CDC warns public of norovirus peak season

TAIPEI (CNA) Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a call Friday for the public to observe good hygiene, particularly at this time, which it said is a peak season for norovirus.

Norovirus illnesses, caused by a highly contagious virus that produces symptoms such as nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps, typically peak between November and March in Taiwan, according to the CDC.

Over the past four weeks, 24 cluster infections of diarrhea caused by norovirus have been confirmed in Taiwan, the CDC said, adding that there had been a total of 55 cluster cases of diarrhea during that period.

The virus is transmitted mainly via the fecal-oral route, and outbreaks often occur in densely populated institutions such as schools, which means good hygiene is key to preventing the spread of the disease, CDC Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞) told CNA.

In particular, it is important to wash one’s hands with soap, Lo said, noting that a recent poll had found poor handwashing habits among junior high school students in Taiwan.

The survey of 5,703 students in 60 junior high schools across Taiwan found that while 91.6 percent of students washed their hands after using the bathroom, only 24.1 percent washed their hands before every meal, and only 12.2 percent used soap each time.

To reduce the risk of contracting viruses, Lo said, students should adopt good hygiene practices, including washing their hands thoroughly with soap for at least 20 seconds before eating and after using the bathroom.

He also advised the public to eat only well-cooked foods and to prepare cooked and raw foods separately.

People who experience symptoms of norovirus should remain at home for at least 48 hours after the symptoms subside, he added.

By Chen Wei-ting and Chiang Yi-ching