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Swine flu could kill nearly 7,000: former health minister

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – Taiwan could see 6,900 deaths and 7 million patients fall ill as a result of the A(H1N1) swine flu virus, former Department of Health Minister Chen Chien-jen said Wednesday.
A third of the population could be infected and one out of every 1,000 patients could die, said Chen, a respected former health chief who played a prominent part in the fight against SARS in 2003. “My estimates are conservative,” he added. He made the comments during interviews with local media.
Taiwan has so far recorded five deaths and 38,000 infected patients with a rate of 14,000 new cases a week, according to the Centers for Disease Control. Wednesday saw three new serious cases of A(H1N1), all in Central Taiwan, bringing the total to 47, the CDC said. The new patients were a 23-year-old man, a 23-year-old woman and a 15-year-old boy.
“Hospitals can become major sources of infection,” Chen cautioned. The swine flu victims could infect other patients originally staying at hospitals for cancer treatment or suffering from a weakened immune system, Chen said.
He also warned that the victims of the swine flu were likely to be younger people, making the impact on society even more serious.
If the spread of the virus was well managed, it might last for two or three years, but if the authorities lost control, it could burn out after half a year, Chen predicted. That would not be positive since the country’s medical system would be overwhelmed by the numbers of patients, he said.
Former CDC chairman Su Yi-jen estimated the likely death toll in Taiwan at between 5,000 and 10,000.
He warned that the reopening of schools next week and later local elections scheduled for December could lead to large outbreaks. If the virus had spread significantly by early October, the elections should be postponed or the campaign rallies replaced with televised speeches, Su said.
Announcing its policy on anti-flu vaccines Wednesday, the CDC said the first priority would be the victims of the Typhoon Morakot disaster and medical staff, pregnant women, and children beginning from the youngest age and those with grave illnesses.
The military, which said this week four of its relief workers in the southern Taiwan disaster areas had contracted swine flu, announced Wednesday that three Navy officers had contracted the disease.
The three new military patients were all stationed in Suao, Ilan County. One was based on shore, and two on a ship, the Ministry of National Defense said. The ship’s 214 crew members had been given leave and were asked to monitor their own health, the military said.
The new cases brought the total of A(H1N1) infections in the armed forces to 44.
President Ma Ying-jeou was inviting specialists to discuss the fight against the swine flu Thursday.
As concerns about the flu virus affecting the typhoon disaster areas spread, Premier Liu Chao-shiuan on Wednesday suggested that the residents of Linpien Township in Pingtung County might have to be evacuated to allow rescue teams to execute a total cleanup. More than two weeks after the typhoon, military and civilian cleaners have been unable to drain all the water and remove the mud from the city.

Updated : 2021-04-21 14:02 GMT+08:00