Taipei warns of growing threat from enterovirus

PHOTO: Taipei warns of growing threat from enterovirus

TAIPEI - Taipei city health authorities warned yesterday of a rising trend of enterovirus (EV) infection, and the likelihood that the virus, a common cause of hand, foot and mouth disease among children, will also attack teenagers.

Lin Kuo-ning, deputy chief of the city Department of Health's disease control division, said there have been five cases of enterovirus 71 (EV71) infection reported so far this year, involving one high school student and two junior high school students.

EV71 is a picornavirus associated with fatal neurological illness in infants and young children.

The cases suggest a rising trend in the age of patients susceptible to EV, Lin said.

According to city health department statistics, as of March 10 this year, district hospitals in the city had reported a total of 1,182 cases of EV infection, 2.8 times the 417 cases the hospitals reported in the same period of last year.

Meanwhile, schools around Taipei reported 1,384 EV cases from Jan. 1 to March 10, some 3.93 times the 352 cases recorded in the same period of last year.

The accumulated number of school classes forced to be suspended due to cluster infections reached 113 classes between Jan. 1 and March 10. The figure is 3.22 times the 35 classes reported in the same period of 2011, the statistics show.

The city health department reminded the public that infants and toddlers aged under 5 are at the highest risk of severe EV infection.