The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Tuesday urged people with chronic liver disease to be vaccinated against influenza as soon as possible, as a flu infection can worsen liver disease and might even cause liver failure.
The centers’ disease monitoring statistics showed a total of 53,815 reported cases of flu-like illness last week, including eight people with serious flu complications, six of whom had not received flu vaccinations.
People with diabetes or cardiovascular diseases have a higher risk of developing serious complications when they contract the flu, CDC Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞) said.
However, 6 percent of the cases with serious flu complications reported in the previous flu season involved people with chronic liver disease, so those people should also be aware of the increased risk, Lo said.
Taiwan has about 2.5 million to 3 million people with chronic liver disease and those who have liver fibrosis or liver cirrhosis have weaker immune systems and are at greater risk of developing pneumonia after catching the flu, which can lead to serious complications or even death, said Lee Mau-hwa (李懋華), chief executive officer of the Good Liver Foundation’s medical development department.
The flu can also worsen liver inflammation and cause acute hepatitis, or even acute liver failure in serious cases, he said.
People taking medication for hepatitis C or undergoing interferon therapy should not worry that the flu vaccine will affect their treatment, Lee said, adding that they should get vaccinated as soon as possible for protection against the flu.
People with chronic hepatitis B, hepatitis C, alcoholic hepatitis or fatty liver disease, regardless of age, are all eligible for government-funded flu vaccines, Lo said.
More than 90 percent of the free vaccines prepared for this flu season have been administered, with about 420,000 doses remaining, the CDC said, urging those eligible for free shots — especially those with chronic liver disease — to get them before the supply runs out.