A worker disinfects a poultry market in Taipei. (Photo/Chen Chun-wei)
Taiwan remains on high alert against the H7N9 bird-flu virus in light of new cases in China and an expected increase in travel between the two sides during the four-day Tomb Sweeping holiday that began Thursday, officials said.
China on Thursday reported two more human infections —one fatal— of the H7N9 avian flu virus, which brought its total reported cases to 11, with four deaths.
Taiwan's Department of Health on Wednesday designated infections of the H7N9 avian influenza strain as a notifiable disease and listed China's Jiangsu and Anhui provinces, as well as the cities of Shanghai and Nanjing, as affected areas.
Travel between the two sides is expected to increase during the Tomb Sweeping holiday as people return to their family homes for the traditional festival April 4-7.
Chang Feng-yee, director-general of the health department's Centers for Disease Control, said Taiwan's borders are still open to Chinese visitors, and he noted that the World Health Organization also has not imposed any travel restrictions on mainland tourists.
However, Chinese tourists in Taiwan will not be permitted to visit poultry farms in the country, officials said.
As part of Taiwan's preventative efforts, it has stepped up sanitization of poultry farms nationwide, especially in Changhua and Yunlin counties, the epicenter of the country's poultry industry, local officials said.
Restrictions have also been imposed on the entry of vehicles and visitors to poultry farms in those two counties, according to their Animal Disease Control Centers.
So far, there have been no reported cases of poultry infections across the country, according to the health department.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Education said Thursday that in light of the frequent academic exchanges across the Taiwan Strait, students and teachers who develop flu symptoms such as coughing and fever within seven days of returning from affected areas in China should seek immediate medical attention.
They should also inform the doctors of their recent visits to China, the ministry said.
One of the worrying aspects of the H7N9 situation is the fact that there is no vaccine yet against the virus, according to Wang Chun-chuan, director of the ministry's Overall Planning Department.
He said that if Taiwan succeeds in developing an H7N9 vaccine, the ministry will ask that students be listed among the priority groups for inoculation.