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Preventing Common Diseases in Taiwan

Common Diseases in TaiwanTaiwan is an island located 180 kilometers east of China with a population of 23.55 million people. Although Taiwan is considered to be well-developed, some common diseases in Taiwan are still deadly. Here are some of the common diseases in Taiwan.

  1. Japanese encephalitis (JE)
    JE is a viral infection caused by RNA viruses belonging to the Flavivirus genus. It is an animal disease that can be spread to humans. Mosquitoes that feed on infected animals, such as birds and pigs, are the main transmitters. According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), during 2010 and 2015, the majority of reported cases were in central and southern Taiwan, and most of the infected were male. JE transmission occurs between May and October and peaks in June and July. Children under the age of 15 and adults between 30 and 59 are the most likely to get infected.Outbreaks of JE typically occur after rainy seasons, especially the summer months. A majority of JE patients do not exhibit symptoms, which usually occur five to 15 days after exposure. Symptoms include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, general weakness and severe headache. The disease is fatal in 20 to 30 percent of cases. If the patient survives, long-term neurologic, psychiatric or cognitive problems are possible.A vaccine for Japanese encephalitis has been developed, and children are required to have it when they reach the age of 15 months. Long-term travelers to Taiwan are recommended to receive the vaccine. The best and easiest way to avoid infection is to wear long sleeves and long pants when visiting mosquito-prone places.
  2. Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)
    SARS is one of the common diseases in Taiwan. It is a viral respiratory illness caused by SARS coronavirus. Like JE, it is passed from animals to humans and can then be passed to other humans. The main source of transmission is close person-to-person contact.Early SARS symptoms are high fever and chills or headache. In two to seven days, SARS patients may develop a dry, nonproductive cough accompanied by or progressing to a condition in which the oxygen levels in the blood are low. SARS can result in serious complications such as respiratory failure, heart failure and liver failure.Taiwan experienced a huge SARS outbreak in 2003. According to the CDC, as of May 22, 2003, a total of 483 probable cases had been reported. Among all those cases, 84 had been discharged and 60 had died. A travel alert was issued to prevent more spreading. On July 17, 2017, the travel alert for Taiwan was removed.Although SARS has not been reported since 2004 in Taiwan, it is always good to be alerted. Washing hands frequently and wearing disposable gloves when touching any bodily fluids are proven ways to prevent SARS.
  3. Scrub typhus
    Another of the common diseases in Taiwan is scrub typhus, also known as bush typhus, and is caused by bacteria called Orientia tsutsugamushi. Scrub typhus is transmitted through infected chiggers. Symptoms include fever, headache and body aches. The disease can cause organ failure and bleeding and can be fatal if left untreated.According to the CDC, as of June 2016, 117 scrub typhus cases had been confirmed. The cases were reported throughout the year, increasing in numbers in May and peaking in June and July. The second outbreak lasted through September and October.There is no vaccine for scrub typhus. The main prevention and control strategies in Taiwan are case identification and increased public awareness. Wearing long-sleeved shirts and pants can prevent bites, which reduces the chance of infection. Avoiding sitting on the bare ground can also be an effective prevention tactic.

Taiwan is a relatively safe place. All of the common diseases in Taiwan are dangerous, but not deadly if properly treated. Public education is important to help people to identify symptoms in order to avoid unnecessary fatalities.

Mike Liu

Photo: Flickr