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August 26, 2009

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Swine flu hits typhoon cleanup

TAIWAN authorities scrambled yesterday to disinfect villages that were flooded in the worst typhoon to hit the island in 50 years after four soldiers helping with the cleanup were confirmed to have swine flu.

The soldiers developed fevers and nausea after working in villages in Pingtung County in the south, said Steve Kuo, head of the Center for Disease Control. They later tested positive for swine flu.

An additional 200 soldiers who worked closely with them were pulled out of the villages and placed under medical observation, TV stations reported.

Typhoon Morakot left more than 670 people either dead or missing on the island.

Meanwhile, some 100 residents in a Pingtung village who had developed the same symptoms were found not to have swine flu but appeared to have been infected by polluted water, health official Chang Hsin-che told CTI Cable News.

The village was among eight in Wandan Township flooded when Morakot struck on August 8 and 9. The storm triggered landslides and widespread flooding that trapped thousands of people in remote southern villages for days.

"Mud and garbage have been cleaned, but we fear many pigs and other animals' bodies are still buried under the logs flowing down the Kaoping River from mountains upstream," said Hung Li-yun, a Wandan official.

Disinfection spray

Hung said authorities began spraying the area with disinfectants soon after the typhoon hit, and the effort has continued since then to prevent flood-related epidemics.

On Monday, the government asked officials to increase efforts to prevent a large swine flu outbreak, especially at temporary shelters for the thousands whose homes were destroyed.

The Center for Disease Control said yesterday that a 6-year-old boy and a 44-year-old woman died of swine flu this week, bringing Taiwan's total fatalities to five.

The victims were from central Taiwan, which was not affected by the typhoon, the center said.

The island has had nearly 40,000 swine flu cases, most of them mild, officials said.


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