According to the surveillance data compiled by the Taiwan Centers for Disease Control (Taiwan CDC),last week’s number of outpatient visits for acute gastroenteritis reached a record high after four years. As the long weekend for the 228 holiday is upon us, the public is urged to pay additional attention to personal and dietary hygiene. Hotel and restaurant workers, including chefs and kitchen staff, are advised to stay home and rest when experiencing discomfort. Additionally, hotel and restaurant workers are also urged to maintain environmental cleanliness at all times. Further, Taiwan CDC will dispatch personnel to assist the local health bureau where a gastroenteritis outbreak occurred and supervise the implementation of relevant promotion activities. Simultaneously, local competent authorities have been requested to reinforce the implementation of the guidelines for the prevention and control of norovirus and the tourism bureau has been requested to ask people who work in the travel and tourism industry to reinforce relevant health education and awareness campaigns among travelers and tourists.
During Weeks 4 and 7, the proportions of people seeking healthcare for acute gastroenteritis respectively are 20.1%, 20.1%, 20.2%, and 22.8 %. During the same period last year, the proportions of people seeking healthcare for acute gastroenteritis respectively are 15.7%, 17.9%, 19.9%, and 18.0 %. As Week 7 happened to be the Chinese Lunar New Year Holiday, outpatient services were closed and the proportion of people seeking medical attention for acute gastroenteritis significantly increased as compared to the past few weeks. Most patients are children aged between 0 and 6, followed by elderly people aged above 65. Thus far this year, a total of 24 viral gastroenteritis clusters have occurred. The majority of the clusters were caused by norovirus and rotavirus.
Norovirus is a common cause of gastroenteritis and it is highly contagious. People of all age can become infected with the virus. To prevent norovirus infection, wash your hands frequently with soap and water, especially after using the toilet and always before eating and preparing food; cook oysters and other shellfish thoroughly before consuming them; wash fruits and vegetables before preparing and eating them; refrigerate leftover foods; consume all perishable products as soon as possible; change bedding, clothing, and towels used by patients immediately; disinfect the environment and all surfaces used by patients with 1,000 ppm chorine solution; put on gloves and masks when handling patients’ excretions and disinfect the excretions with 5,000 ppm chorine solution before flushing them away; always wash hands thoroughly after handling patients’ excretions; and when experiencing relevant symptoms, especially food workers, seek immediate medical attention and rest at home, and only resume work 48 hours after symptoms are relieved.
The primary symptoms of viral gastroenteritis include watery diarrhea and vomiting. Other possible symptoms include headache, fever, abdominal cramps, stomach ache, nausea, and muscle aches. Moreover, norovirus infection can cause severe vomiting. Hence, Taiwan CDC reminds the public to wash hands frequently, maintain personal and environmental hygiene, consume only thoroughly cooked foods, and always use the serving utensils to take food when sharing food with others in order to ward off infection. If symptoms such as diarrhea, vomiting or others that pertain to gastroenteritis, please seek prompt medical attention and rest at home. 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).