Health

Introduction

Since Taiwan is a subtropical country in full development, health conditions are quite different from the ones you were used to. The summers are hot and humid and with the introduction of air-conditioners many people catch summer colds. The winters on the other hand can be chillier than one would expect and since there is no heating provided, you should learn to mix and match several layers of clothing to stay in good health.

As a rule of thumb it is good to remember that tap water in Taiwan is not very safe to drink. The water fountains (such as the ones on campus) are regularly inspected, but otherwise water should always be filtered and/or boiled before consumption. Don't get too paranoid, however, you don't have to buy bottled water to brush your teeth. Some guidebooks advice you to stay away from food stalls on the roadside.

It is my experience however that all of them are pretty safe, though indeed, they may not all look as hygienic as a Westerner would wish. You might stay away from seafood during the hottest period of the year, unless it's visibly very fresh.

Preparation

To prepare medically for your stay here, it is advised to have the following inoculations and/or vaccinations: tetanus, poliomyelitis, Hepatitis B and Japanese B Encephalitis. Check with your local doctor for more up to date information. If you really want to be prepared well, you might start getting these injections back home, because some of them don't come in one shot only, but take a series of three or four shots with a few weeks interval. If not, all these vaccines can be obtained safely and efficiently here in Taichung. You might start taking the shots at home and bring the remaining medicine over to have them administered here.

Hospitals

Every hospital has extensive outpatient services. Registering and finding the doctor you want to see (each doctor works three half days a week), as well as paying fees and getting medicine is a total zoo, so you must go with someone who understands the system. Expect to find competent, even accomplished doctors (based on your friend's recommendations) giving treatment very quickly in assembly line fashion.

Cheng Ching Hospital and Lin Shin Hospital are nearest to FCU, but the English information available on the net is very limited. Jen-Ai (pronouced Ren-Ai) strives to be the most foreigner friendly in the area, and they likely achieve this goal. Unfortunately, they are located further away from campus.

Clinics

Clinics are all privately owned. There is no appointment needed, though some clinics do have them and you waste less waiting time there. The doctor doesn't necessarily charge for treatment per se, but for the medications he or she dispenses (usually 2-3 days' worth). You are expected to come back for more medications after yours run out. You may ask the names and strengths of the pills you are taking, but the doctor may be reluctant to give them to you for fear you'll go to a drug store and buy them yourself. Though since a few years ago doctors officially don't have the right anymore to dispense medicine, most clinics still dispense the medicine themselves.

The closest of all is the Linxin Clinic on the university campus. Many people go there to get medicine to combat simple viruses or infections. It's on the ground floor of the Recreation Building and their services are free for you if you show your student ID (medicine not included). Chinese needed but they a little medical English.

Pharmacies

As it stands right now, you don't need a prescription to get most drugs here. With the help of the staff at the Language Center or of other Chinese friends, you can easily enough find licensed pharmacists around the University. For minor illnesses the pharmacists are quite happy to give you advice and prescriptions, but be aware that they don't usually ask what other medications you may be on (which could cause synergistic effects).

Dentists

Getting fillings here in Taiwan is not more painful than anywhere else. Some dentists however inject Novocaine directly into the tooth which may be painful at first, but it leaves you with no lingering pain or numbness after you leave the dentist. It is best you ask friends and dentists themselves. Extractions are quite safe, depending on which dentist you go to, because quacks are not a Taiwanese phenomenon only. False teeth of comparable quality and with excellent service are cheaper than those in most western countries and orthodontic treatment is becoming increasingly popular with youngsters.

Introduction

Since Taiwan is a subtropical country in full development, health conditions are quite different from the ones you were used to. The summers are hot and humid and with the introduction of air-conditioners many people catch summer colds. The winters on the other hand can be chillier than one would expect and since there is no heating provided, you should learn to mix and match several layers of clothing to stay in good health.

As a rule of thumb it is good to remember that tap water in Taiwan is not very safe to drink. The water fountains (such as the ones on campus) are regularly inspected, but otherwise water should always be filtered and/or boiled before consumption. Don't get too paranoid, however, you don't have to buy bottled water to brush your teeth. Some guidebooks advice you to stay away from food stalls on the roadside.

It is my experience however that all of them are pretty safe, though indeed, they may not all look as hygienic as a Westerner would wish. You might stay away from seafood during the hottest period of the year, unless it's visibly very fresh.

Preparation

To prepare medically for your stay here, it is advised to have the following inoculations and/or vaccinations: tetanus, poliomyelitis, Hepatitis B and Japanese B Encephalitis. Check with your local doctor for more up to date information. If you really want to be prepared well, you might start getting these injections back home, because some of them don't come in one shot only, but take a series of three or four shots with a few weeks interval. If not, all these vaccines can be obtained safely and efficiently here in Taichung. You might start taking the shots at home and bring the remaining medicine over to have them administered here.

Hospitals

Every hospital has extensive outpatient services. Registering and finding the doctor you want to see (each doctor works three half days a week), as well as paying fees and getting medicine is a total zoo, so you must go with someone who understands the system. Expect to find competent, even accomplished doctors (based on your friend's recommendations) giving treatment very quickly in assembly line fashion.

Cheng Ching Hospital and Lin Shin Hospital are nearest to FCU, but the English information available on the net is very limited. Jen-Ai (pronouced Ren-Ai) strives to be the most foreigner friendly in the area, and they likely achieve this goal. Unfortunately, they are located further away from campus.

Clinics

Clinics are all privately owned. There is no appointment needed, though some clinics do have them and you waste less waiting time there. The doctor doesn't necessarily charge for treatment per se, but for the medications he or she dispenses (usually 2-3 days' worth). You are expected to come back for more medications after yours run out. You may ask the names and strengths of the pills you are taking, but the doctor may be reluctant to give them to you for fear you'll go to a drug store and buy them yourself. Though since a few years ago doctors officially don't have the right anymore to dispense medicine, most clinics still dispense the medicine themselves.

The closest of all is the Linxin Clinic on the university campus. Many people go there to get medicine to combat simple viruses or infections. It's on the ground floor of the Recreation Building and their services are free for you if you show your student ID (medicine not included). Chinese needed but they a little medical English.

Pharmacies

As it stands right now, you don't need a prescription to get most drugs here. With the help of the staff at the Language Center or of other Chinese friends, you can easily enough find licensed pharmacists around the University. For minor illnesses the pharmacists are quite happy to give you advice and prescriptions, but be aware that they don't usually ask what other medications you may be on (which could cause synergistic effects).

Dentists

Getting fillings here in Taiwan is not more painful than anywhere else. Some dentists however inject Novocaine directly into the tooth which may be painful at first, but it leaves you with no lingering pain or numbness after you leave the dentist. It is best you ask friends and dentists themselves. Extractions are quite safe, depending on which dentist you go to, because quacks are not a Taiwanese phenomenon only. False teeth of comparable quality and with excellent service are cheaper than those in most western countries and orthodontic treatment is becoming increasingly popular with youngsters.

Hospitals in Taichung

Jen-Ai Hospital
483 Dong Rong Rd.,Tail, Taichung
English Hotline: 0963.175.765

Cheng Ching Hospital
No.118, Sec.3, Zhonggang Rd. #139, Pingdeng St
Phone: 2463.2000

Lin Shin Hosptial
No.36, Sec. 3, Huizhong Rd.
Phone: 2258.6688

Taichung Hospital
No.199, Sec. 1, Sanmin Rd.
Phone: 2229.4411 ext. 3304

Veterans Hospital
No.160, Sec.3, Zhonggang Rd.
Phone: 2359.2525 ext. 2741

Zhongshan Medical College Hospital
No.23, Sec.1, Zhonggang Rd.
Phone: 2201.5111 ext. 1271

Fong Yuan Hospital 
No.100, Angang Rd., Fongyuan
Phone: 2527.1180

Xin Wenxin Clinic 
No.112, Fengchia Rd.
Phone: 2254.2660

National Insurance Program

Important: Students holding an ARCmust stay in the country for at least 6 months (uninterrupted) prior to their application for national insurance. It is required for all international students to enroll in the Bureau of National Health Insurance Program for Foreign Residents. The monthly premium for this insurance is NT$ 720.

NHI is a compulsory social insurance program with the entire population enrolled in the program. (…) All citizens who have established a registered domicile for at least 6 months in the Taiwan area should be enrolled in NHI. Those individuals who do not have Taiwan citizenship but do have a Taiwan Alien Residence Certificate (ARC) must also participate, four-months after the ARC is issued, in the National Health Insurance program as of July 17th 1999.

The Bureau of National Health Insurance will issue to every qualified individual a National Health Insurance IC card. Please present your card to the doctor for each visit. The card can be applied for on campus in room 303 at the Second Administration Building (the same building as our classrooms). You will need to bring a copy of your ARC (both sides), and one passport picture. Starting from Jan 1, 2004, please use the NHI IC Card when visiting the doctor. The validity of the NHI IC Card should be re-newed once a year. Its validity period ends on your birthday of the next year, so please renew your card within one month prior to your date of birth by using the card readers every year. You may also ask the hospital staff to help you renew it.

Your card will only be valid in legal and contracted hospitals and clinics of the National Health Insurance Program.

When insured individuals require a new card, they can apply for one via their school, or they can bring their National Health Insurance card, together with a proof of identification, to apply for a new one at all offices of Bureau of National Health Insurance, all BNHI Clinical Centers, and three Veterans General Hospitals in Taipei, Taichung and Kaohsiung, as well as all municipal/provincial hospitals island wide. Each health insurance card is valid only for one year. Cards expire at the end of each year and will no longer be valid.

When traveling overseas for a short period of time, either on business or on vacation, and then returning to Taiwan with a valid ARC, foreigners must remain enrolled in the NHI program. But if you lose your legal residency, or plan to leave the island permanently, then you must withdraw from the program through your administrative office. Just remember to return you NHI card, and pay off any premiums before you leave this island.

Students who get sick or involved in an accident while covered under the NHI program and traveling abroad, should keep all receipts and ask for a diagnosis, signed by a qualified physician.

Patient's Cost Sharing

All insured individuals joining the National Health Insurance Program will be required to co-pay prescription costs as follows:

NT$ Clinic Dentist Chinese Emergency
Medical Clinics 50 50 50 150
District Hospitals 50 50 50 150
Regional Hospitals 100 50 50 210
Medical Centers 100 50 50 420

For further information or details regarding any of the stipulated regulations concerning the National Health Insurance Program, or opinions or suggestions, please contact the Bureau of National Health Insurance.

Address:4 No.66, Shizheng N. 1st Rd., Xitun District, 
Taichung City 40709, Taiwan (R.O.C.) 
Check Map
Tel: +886-2-2258-3988

Disclaimer

The insurance fees quoted above are provided as a reference only. Actual premiums may vary as a result of changing circumstances. Students are advised to enquire in detail about insurance premiums and conditions at the time of application.

Animals & Insects

There are a wide variety of animals and insects in Taiwan and not all of them are pleasant guests. First of all and most widespread come the mosquitoes. All windows in apartments are equipped with screens; check them and have them replaced if there are too many holes. Apart from the itchy red welts and their annoying buzzing sounds at night, mosquitoes can also transmit diseases. Since fall of 1995, there have been reports cases regarding dengue fever. Especially the Tunghai area, its nice campus with plenty of trees and lake, it seems to be rather heavily infected with the Aedes mosquito, which typically bites during the day. In July 2002, around 300 people were infected with dengue fever in and around the Kaoshiung area, and the disease spread a bit further around the island. Since that time, the disease has been better monitored and contained. Dengue fever has flu-like symptoms (fever, headaches, muscle pains) and also gives you skin rashes. Usually the infection is short-lived, with no lasting ill effects, unless you become reinfected and do not seek medical treatment. It seems necessary, however, to pay more attention to the dengue fever spread, as mentioned in the following newspaper article (Taipei Times, 23 October 2002):

The number of dengue fever cases climbed to 3,495 yesterday as health authorities urge people to clean up the environment to wipe out the mosquito-borne disease. Among the 3,495 infected people, 88 have contracted the more deadly hemorrhagic dengue fever and 12 have died, according to the Department of Health. Most of the patients were found in Kaoshiung County and Kaohsiung City. The fever is spread by the dengue-carrying mosquito which breeds in stagnant pools. Patients develop high fever, joint aches and sometimes fatal internal bleeding. Experts say the best way to prevent dengue fever is to collect discarded tires, bottles and cans, and to clean out wells and flowerpots where water can gather.

The night-biting Anopheles mosquito is the carrier of four species of blood parasites that can cause malaria a serious and potentially fatal disease. High fever, cold chills,?drenching sweats, muscle aches and other flu-like symptoms are early signs of infection. Fortunately, so far Taiwan has no reported cases of malaria, but if you plan to travel elsewhere in southeast Asia (including southern Mainland China), consult your physician as to whether there is a malarial alert for your destination. Japanese B Encephalitis is spread by mosquitoes that have bitten infected pigs. Cases have been reported in Taichung and elsewhere on the island where there pigs are abundant. Symptoms resemble that of the flu, with severe cases resulting in permanent neurological damage and death.

So how to protect oneself against these nasty insects? Try to avoid being bitten in the first place. Close screen doors and check window screens. Wear protective (long sleeved) shirts and pants. You can also buy a mosquito-net to add some tropical atmosphere to your room. Avoid perfumes, scented soaps and lotions. Remove all still water in the neighborhood as this serves as the mosquitoes' breeding ground (flower pots, other containers). Apply insect repellents, preferably those which contain DEET (diethylmethylbenzamide). If you abhor using chemicals on your skin, it is recommended to eat more garlic, drink tonic water containing quinine or take a teaspoon a day of brewer's yeast. If you want to keep your room mosquito-free, you can burn mosquito-coils or use an electric vaporizer with replaceable mats (around NT$ 160 for the appliance and around NT$ 70 for 33 mats, which will last you a month). Protection still the best cure, certainly with, for example, new generations of mosquitoes around who have become completely resistant against all known malaria drugs.

Cockroaches are a pretty common sight in (sub)tropical countries and their size may be a little surprising; they are way bigger than their younger western brothers. Though they are not harmful, they may be scary. If you don't leave anything edible for them lying around (leftovers, crumbs, spilled food, …), they won't visit you that much. If you really want a cockroach-free room, try the \"cockroach hotel'. The geckos that you will see on the wall are far from noxious; in fact they prey on mosquitoes and other small insects, so you should be lucky to have some around. Less innocent are spiders and especially centipedes. These little creatures — though some aren't that little at all — aren't as common as mosquitoes, but you may still find some around. Some spiders — it is hard to distinguish them for a non-entomologist — especially one pretty big kind, may spray some liquid on you if you touch it, which gives you a very nasty rash that is very hard to get rid of. Centipedes (between 3 and 6 centimeters long) can sting you with a same long lasting effect. Keeping your room as tidy as possible is, once again, the only precaution you can take.

When you go hiking, you should be aware of the risk of running into snakes. Taiwan has quite a lot of them (cobras, vipers, coral snakes, hundred-pacers) — if you are bitten, you die within the time it takes to walk 100 steps; a friend of mine even had a close encounter with a python at his house in Dakeng). You should take precautions whenever you walk in grass or in areas where people seldom go. Make noise, use a walking stick to clear the path ahead, wear rubber or leather boots and carry a flashlight at night. In winter, snakes are way less active and you can often see them taking a lazy sunbath without showing the slightest interest in you. Should you be bitten, try to kill and/or catch the snake or get a complete description of its size, color and markings. The victim should be kept still. There are snake bite kits available, but if you don't have one, try to keep the bite as cold as possible to slow down the spread of the poison. Find medical assistance as soon as possible.

Don't get too scared after reading all this. Such things may happen, indeed, but so far, the worst that has happened to students was food poisoning and, of course, some minor traffic accidents.