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September 23, 2017

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CDC admits fault in delayed hantavirus report

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- Taiwan's Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Wednesday admitted it had been at fault for the delayed issuing of an alert after a hantavirus-carrying rat was caught at Kaohsiung's airport.

The rat was caught at Kaohsiung International Airport in September and the CDC soon after confirmed that it was carrying hantaviruses.

But the CDC did not tell the airport about the case until a few days ago, when officials from both sides held the latest session of their regular meetings on public hygiene. CDC officials told airport authorities to step up their efforts at cleaning the airport and eliminating rodents to prevent the spread of hantaviruses.

In a press statement admitting the delay, the CDC said although the fault did not result in a hantavirus epidemic, the CDC will review its internal operations and decide if disciplinary actions will be taken against responsible personnel.

CDC Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang said personnel handling the case had forgotten to notify the Kaohsiung airport after the animal was found to carry hantaviruses.

Chuang said that no other hantavirus-carrying rats had been caught at the Kaohsiung airport since the September catch.

He said the CDC has increased the number of mousetraps placed at the Kaohsiung airport, and has stepped up monitoring of the airport.

According to the CDC, a total of 3,088 rats were caught at airports and seaports from 2010 to 2013, with 6 percent of them found to carry hantaviruses.

According to the CDC, hantavirus hemorrhagic fever is a zoonosis caused by hantaviruses. Rodents are the natural reservoir for hantaviruses, which are transmitted from infected rodents to humans by inhalation of aerosolized particles from rodent excreta or a bite from infected rodents.

The incubation period ranges from several days to two months, the CDC said, adding that symptoms usually include fever, headache, fatigue, abdominal pain, lower back pain, nausea, vomiting, varying degrees of hemorrhagic manifestations and kidney involvement.

As hantaviruses do not spread between humans, the CDC said, rodent control in and around the home remains the most effective prevention strategy against hantavirus infection.

The CDC so far this year has reported three confirmed cases of hantavirus hemorrhagic fever, with all patients living in Kaohsiung.

The more recent one was reported in April, and the patient was a 57-year-old male fishmonger. The other two cases before him belonged to a family cluster, the CDC said.

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