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June 24, 2017

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Flu cases may rise as cold snap hits Taiwan: CDC

TAIPEI, Taiwan -- The number of influenza cases could increase around Taiwan during the Lantern Festival on Saturday as a strong cold front continues to impact the island over the weekend, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said on Thursday.

According to CDC Deputy Director-General Lo Yi-chun (羅一鈞), the influenza virus spreads best in cold weather and with crowds of people attending festival venues, which facilitate rapid transmission of the virus, the possibility of an influenza epidemic cannot be ignored.

Seasonal flu viruses accounted for 54 percent of respiratory tract infections last week and flu activity could climb over the weekend when people attend festive outdoor activities, including large crowds during the Lantern Festival, particularly given the severe cold spell, Lo said citing CDC statistics.

According to the CDC, as of Feb. 8, a total of 303 cases of severe flu with complications had been recorded since July 1, 2016 -- which the CDC designates as the start of an annual flu season.

During that period, 42 people have died from seasonal flu-related complications, the statistics show.

The Influenza A H3N2 virus remains the most prevalent strain this season, according to Lo.

Vaccination is the most effective way to avoid becoming infected, Lo said, urging high-risk groups such as seniors over 65, infants, children, patients with chronic diseases and pregnant women to be get their shots as soon as possible.

The Central Weather Bureau on Thursday warned of sustained low temperatures over the next few days across most of the country after the mercury earlier that day dipped to 9.5 degrees Celsius in Tamsui, New Taipei, the lowest temperature recorded in a low-lying area in Taiwan this winter.

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