Elementary schools across Taiwan started summer vacation a week early, but their newly freed charges have no place to go: Combating a virus that already has killed 52 children, summer camps won't open this year, and swimming pools have barred all kids under 14.
Panicked officials who failed to heed a doctor's pleas to take action earlier are now making desperate attempts - through school, pool and camp closures - to halt the spread of the deadly intestinal virus, which also has sent 157 to the hospital.The outbreak has cast a pall over Taiwan: TV broadcasts showed saddened schoolchildren standing in front of blackboards tallying the funerals of their classmates. Newspapers flash death toll updates almost daily.
Dr. Kuo Ming-yu believes the government could have avoided all of this - if they had just listened to warnings from him and several other doctors back in April.The intestinal virus is a common one that hits Taiwan every summer and is usually much milder. But this spring, Kuo noticed that several babies and toddlers he saw in his clinic in northern Taoyuan had developed high fevers from brain or lung infections.
Kuo, whose clinic in northern Taoyuan is one of 800 islandwide required to report regularly on possible epidemics, urged authorities to quarantine baby rooms in hospitals and take extra precautions in nursery schools.
As of Friday, the virus, now identified as enterovirus 71, had killed 52 children in Taiwan. Another 157 were stricken seriously enough to require hospitalization.