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Surge in flu cases possible: CDC

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Public health officials have expressed concern over a possible surge in influenza cases due to flu virus mutations as people return to work and schools reopen next week.

The Center for Disease Control (CDC) under the Department of Health confirmed 13 severe flu cases around Taiwan since the winter season started, including two girls aged three and 11 infected with the H1N1 strain of flu virus. Three have died due to flu related complications.

The total number of flu cases under close monitoring by the CDC increased 14 percent from the previous week.

Medical researchers said the flu virus normally undergoes minor modifications every year, with possible drastic mutations every five years.

They said both the H1N1 and H3N2 strains of flu virus that hit Taiwan this time have undergone mutations, with the H1N1 strain of virus showing the most obvious changes, notably a strong resistance to the Tamiflu vaccine the government provided for the public since last fall.

Both flu strains are prevalent across the island, although H1N1 is the dominant strain in northern and eastern Taiwan while H3N2 is the dominant strain in central and southern parts of the island.

Some pharmacists say sales of anti-flu drugs have recently shot up by as much as 40 percent.

Medical experts advise people, especially those in frequent contact with babies and the elderly, to constantly wash their hands with soap and avoid rubbing their eyes. Staying away from crowded public areas or places with inadequate ventilation will also reduce the likelihood of infection. Other effective measures to ward off the flu include drinking enough water, getting more rest, wearing face masks when outdoors, and putting off extreme physical exercise.

Those who have a cold without a significant improvement after five days should seek medical treatment at a large hospital, the CDC added.

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