People in the emergency room at National Taiwan University Hospital wearing medical masks. (Photo/Chang Kai-yi)
Taiwan confirmed its first imported human infection of H7N9 avian influenza on Wednesday afternoon, according to the country's Centers for Disease Control.
The patient is a 53-year-old male Taiwanese citizen who worked in Suzhou in eastern China's Jiangsu province who started to display symptoms of the bird flu strain three days after returning to Taiwan on April 9. The patient's condition is serious and he is being treated in a negative-pressure isolation room, the CDC said in a press statement.
Taiwan's health minister, Chiu Wen-ta and the head of the country's Central Epidemic Command Center, Chang Feng-yee, have been informed and the epidemic center has reported the case to the World Health Organization and also to the patient's contact point in China.
The patient, who traveled back and forth regularly between Suzhou and Taiwan, was in Suzhou between March 28 and April 9, when he returned to Taiwan via Shanghai. He had reportedly not been exposed to live birds and poultry during his stay in Suzhou and had not consumed undercooked poultry or eggs. On April 12, he developed a fever, as well as sweating and fatigue, but displayed no respiratory or gastrointestinal symptoms.
On April 16, the patient sought medical attention when he developed a high fever and was transferred to hospital. He was placed in a single room for further treatment and was administered the anti-flu drug Tamiflu.
The man's condition worsened on April 19 and on April 20 he was transferred to a medical center for further treatment, where he was intubated due to respiratory failure and placed in the negative-pressure isolation room in the intensive care unit, the statement said.
On April 22, the medical center collected a sputum sample from the patient which tested positive for influenza A. On the morning of April 24, the avian influenza A (H7N9) virus was detected.
The Central Epidemic Command Center has obtained a list of 138 people who came into contact with the patient, including three close contacts, 26 regular contacts, and 109 healthcare workers. Of the 109 healthcare workers, four have passed the seven-day incubation period and shown no symptoms.
Three healthcare workers who were wearing protective equipment have developed symptoms of upper respiratory infection. The public health authority will monitor them closely for signs of bird flu infection, the CDC said.
The epidemic command center has urged travelers visiting China to practice good personal hygiene such as frequent hand-washing and wearing a face mask, as well as avoiding direct contact with poultry and birds.
There have so far been 108 cases of H7N9 infection in mainland China, 22 of which have resulted in the patient's death. There have been no confirmed cases of human-to-human transmission of the virus.