Measles epidemic unlikely in Taiwan: CDC head

Taipei, Measles cases have hit a nine-year high in Taiwan, but a measles epidemic is unlikely because a high percentage of the population has been vaccinated against the disease, Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Director-General Chou Jih-haw (???) said Monday.

Chou said the CDC has been on alert because the number of patients with measles in Taiwan is at its highest level in nine years.

But asked to comment on the potential for a large measles outbreak, Chou said Taiwan has a measles vaccination rate of 97 percent, higher than about 90 percent in many other countries, making an epidemic unlikely.

As of Saturday, 22 people had tested positive for the highly contagious virus since March 29 when the CDC reported Taiwan's first imported case of measles infection this year -- a male patient who was infected with measles during a trip to Thailand in early March.

He developed symptoms such as fever and cough on March 14 and was treated in Taiwan on March 15 and 16 but still traveled to Okinawa on a Tigerair Taiwan flight on March 17, only to learn a few days later that he had the measles.

The man's presence on the plane triggered a cluster infection that has contributed 13 of the 22 cases reported in Taiwan, including six who are Tigerair Taiwan employees.

Also, at least 65 cases have been detected in Okinawa since the Taiwanese man's infection was discovered.

The CDC confirmed two new measles cases on Saturday -- an imported case from Thailand and a domestic case found at Linkou Chang Gung Memorial Hospital in Taoyuan.

The two new cases brought the total to 22 confirmed cases in Taiwan this year, according to the CDC data.

The number of cases is the highest since 2009, when 42 people were infected, according to the CDC.

The CDC said it has identified 5,103 people who could potentially have caught the measles virus while in contact with the 22 people confirmed to have contracted it.

Source: Focus Taiwan News Channel