A major epidemic of norovirus is likely in Taiwan later this month, around the time of the Lunar New Year holiday, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) warned Tuesday, noting that there has been a recent spike in viral gastroenteritis in recent weeks.
CDC Deputy Director-General Luo I-chun (???) said that winter is the prevalent season for viral gastroenteritis in Taiwan, with norovirus being the most common cause.
Over the past four weeks, 34 clusters of infectious diarrhea have been reported around Taiwan, 97 percent of which were linked to norovirus, according to the CDC.
Last week alone, there were 4,000 new cases of people seeking treatment at outpatient clinics or in emergency rooms for acute diarrhea, Luo said.
He said the GII.4 norovirus had been the most prevalent strain, but since last September, a new GII.2 strain had become dominant.
Between September and December last year, the GII.2 strain was responsible for 60 percent of the diarrhea clusters reported, Luo said.
Given that norovirus is highly contagious and that most people are not immune to the new strain, it is likely that a major epidemic would erupt around the end of January, during the Lunar New Year holiday when travel usually increases, he said.
During the 2015 Lunar New Year holiday, a norovirus infection hit 120 people at the Hoya Resort Hotel Wuling in central Taiwan, while another cluster was reported among the staff at a hotel in the Alishan National Scenic Area in southern Taiwan.
Norovirus is commonly transmitted through fecal contamination in food or water, person-to-person contact, and aerosolization with subsequent contamination of surfaces.
The symptoms include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and stomach cramps. Sometimes people develop a slight fever, chills, headache, muscle pains and a general sense of tiredness.
The CDC urged people to wash their hands frequently, observe good personal and environmental hygiene, and eat only well-cooked foods, to prevent infection.
Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel