'Bug' sends dengue fever epidemic alert across Taiwan by mistake

CDC blames system 'bug' on broadcast of dengue fever epidemic warning across Taiwan

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Dengue mosquito. (Photo by flickr user Oregon State University)

Dengue mosquito. (Photo by flickr user Oregon State University)

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) -- Taiwan's Centers for Disease Control (CDC) this afternoon issued an apology for accidentally blasting out a dengue fever alert to millions of cell phone users across Taiwan this morning (July 9), blaming the incident on a "bug" in the system.

At 11:58 a.m. this morning most cell phone users throughout Taiwan received a loud, urgent warning which stated that there was a dengue fever epidemic in their area. Oddly, it described the area as "Kaishanli" (開山里) which is a neighborhood in southern Taiwan's Tainan City.

The message read as follows:

"Epidemic situation warns that there is a local dengue fever epidemic in your area (Kaishanli). Please take adequate measures to protect against mosquitoes. Take the initiative to remove indoor and outdoor water containers for regular inspection. Those who experience fever, headache, arthralgia, erythema, etc... should go to a doctor as soon as possible to undergo NS1 rapid screening. The Tainan City Government and CDC are concerned about you."


Screenshot of today's emergency alert message.

At noon today, the CDC issued a statement saying that a text alert was issued today to warn local people in Kaishanli in Tainan City's West Central District of the outbreak of dengue fever in the area. Due to a problem with the cell phone broadcast system, the message was received by the whole country, causing inconvenience. "We apologize for the inconvenience," wrote the CDC.

CDC Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) told UDN that the text alert message was originally supposed to be sent to those living within two kilometers around Kaishanli in Tainan City, but it was mistakenly sent across Taiwan because of a problem with the system's settings. Chuang emphasized that the mistaken transmission was not the result of human error, but might have been caused by a program "bug" which had been created after a recent system upgrade.

The text warning for dengue fever sent in Tainan today is the first emergency alert message issued for the disease in Taiwan this year. When asked by UDN why Kaohsiung had not yet sent out a similar message, Chuang said that when he asked the Kaohsiung City Government, he was told that the city is reassessing the situation and has not released an alert.