5 hantavirus cases confirmed in Kaohsiung this year

Photo courtesy of the Kaohsiung Department of Health.

KAOHSIUNG (CNA) — Kaohsiung has reported five confirmed cases of hantavirus hemorrhagic fever so far this year, the highest number in four years, the Kaohsiung Department of Health said Sunday.

Five people in Kaohsiung have contracted hantavirus so far this year, the highest reported since three cases were confirmed to this point in the year in 2016, according to Ho Hui-pin (何惠彬), a section chief in the department’s Disease Prevention Division.

The cases have led the city government to step up a rodent eradication campaign and urge residents to help catch mice and rats, Ho said.

Kaohsiung reported its fifth hantavirus case on Friday, involving a woman in her in her 50s who works at a noodle stand in the city’s Fengshan District.

She sought medical attention after being bitten by a rat at her workplace on April 19 and went to see a doctor again after exhibiting symptoms of the disease, including a fever and headache, on May 24, according to the city’s health department.

The woman was admitted to a hospital on May 26 because her symptoms did not improve. She was later confirmed on June 12 as having hantavirus hemorrhagic fever, becoming the fifth case of the year in the city and the seventh nationwide, the health department said.

The country’s other two cases have appeared in New Taipei and Keelung, according to government data.

Ho said Kaohsiung has reported more hantavirus cases than any other city or county because it has a higher population density of rats and mice.

Unlike the three cases in 2016 which were all associated with the same night market, the five patients this year are all workers in the catering and food industry, Ho said.

As a result, the health department, in collaboration with the Environmental Protection Bureau, is taking action to strengthen rodent eradication and disease prevention efforts targeting areas such as traditional markets and night markets.

The city said the hantavirus infections are likely to increase, and it will continue to monitor the situation.

Hantaviruses are rodent-borne viruses causing the human disease known as hemorrhagic fever with renal syndrome in Asia and Europe.