Taipei – The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said Wednesday that hepatitis A is unlikely to break out in Taiwan as public health conditions here are good, rebutting a local newspaper’ s warning that an expected increase in Chinese tourists due to expanded direct flights will cause an outbreak of the liver disease.

The Liberty Times warned in its Wednesday issue that a hepatitis A epidemic may break out in Taiwan as a result of direct flights between the island and China being expanded to daily flights and direct shipping links being launched earlier this month for the first time since the two sides split at the end of a civil war in 1949.

But the CDC under the Department of Health rebutted the argument.

“Hepatitis A infection is highly related to environmental hygiene,… Taiwan’s basic public health conditions have been largely improved compared to 20 years ago. It is unlikely that (the disease) will break out here,” said Lin Ting, CDC deputy director-general.

Lin said that even if Chinese tourists with hepatitis A come to Taiwan and spread the virus, there would be only a few individual cases, not an epidemic.

But he noted that most young Taiwanese people under age 30 do not have the antibody to hepatitis A. If these people make frequent visits to Southeast Asia and mainland China and stay there for a long period of time, they must be careful about eating local food and environmental hygiene, to prevent from getting hepatitis A.

Getting a vaccination is the most efficient way to avoid contracting the infectious disease, Lin said, encouraging people to be vaccinated.

The CDC, in collaboration with health bureaus of Keelung City and Taipei City in northern Taiwan and Kaohsiung City in southern Taiwan, recently implemented a hepatitis A vaccination program on people working in the food and beverage businesses in night markets, in order to reduce the hepatitis A infection rate and protect consumers’ safety.

Night market workers who are immune to hepatitis A or have received a vaccination will be given a certificate, according to the CDC.

A CDC investigation has found that 69.5 percent of 1,290 workers in food and drink businesses in night markets had an antibody to hepatitis A, and the rest of the workers were inoculated by the CDC.

The hepatitis A virus enters the body mostly through the mouth or contact with feces. The disease is found mainly in regions where pubic health conditions are poor. Symptoms of hepatitis A include fever, nausea, vomiting, loss of appetite, abdominal pain and fatigue.