Taiwan Expands Virus Screening After Suspected Community Transmission

Taiwan Expands Virus Screening After Suspected Community Transmission
Photo Credit: CNA

What you need to know

Taiwan has seen the first suspected community-transmitted case of the coronavirus. To prevent community spread, Taiwan has expanded its screening measures to include any individuals with foreign travel history in the past 14 days.

A taxi driver with no known history of traveling to China has died on Saturday due to complications from the new coronavirus disease (Covid-19), marking the first such death in Taiwan, Health Minister Chen Shih-chung announced. 

The deceased, a 61-year-old man who had diabetes and hepatitis B, could be the first case of community transmission in Taiwan, according to the health minister. His younger brother was also confirmed infected last week without showing symptoms. 

Chen said this suspected case of local transmission has yet to constitute a “community spread,” which would mean a serious escalation of public health risks. Signs of a community spread include a sustained chain of infection, the number of local transmission cases surpassing that of the imported ones, which have not occurred in Taiwan, he said. 

“We’re hoping to find out the source of the contraction as soon as possible,” Chen said at a press conference on Sunday. 

During the Lunar New Year holiday, the taxi driver had picked up three Taiwanese businesspeople who returned home from China and Hong Kong, according to the Central Epidemic Control Center (CECC). The CECC has tracked down these three passengers, who have previously sought medical help due to symptoms of respiratory infection. 

“We can say Taiwan is now seeing local transmission, but it hasn’t broken our safety net yet, and this might be an isolated case with only a few people infected,” said Dr. Huang Li-min, a professor at the Institute of Epidemiology and Preventive Medicine at National Taiwan University. 

To prevent community spread in Taiwan, the CECC has expanded its screening measures to include any individuals with foreign travel history (including Singapore, Thailand, Japan, and other countries) in the past 14 days or anyone who has had contact with foreign travelers with a fever or respiratory symptoms. Clusters of cases of fever, pneumonia or respiratory symptoms will also be monitored. 

“We can’t place all our bets on border control; we also have to establish a strong community safety protocol and prevent our medical workers from being infected,” Dr. Huang said. 

Credit: Johns Hopkins CSSE
China reported a spike in the number of new coronavirus cases on Thursday, February 13. 

Taiwan has reported 20 cases of Covid-19 to date. The new coronavirus has infected over 71,300 worldwide and killed 1,775, mostly in China. Hubei province, the epicenter of the outbreak, has reported a drop in the number of new cases. The dip follows a spike last week when the government started diagnosing new cases with CT scans rather than just test kits. 

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TNL Editor: Jeremy Van der Haegen (@thenewslensintl)

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