Taiwan confirms 1st case of H7N9 outside of China

TAIPEI (Taiwan News) – A Taiwanese businessman who fell ill three days after returning from Suzhou in China was confirmed Wednesday afternoon as the country’s first case of the potentially fatal H7N9 flu virus, the Central Epidemic Command Center said.
The 53-year-old man was in serious condition, but he was receiving treatment at an unidentified quarantine center, officials said. He had come in contact with an estimated 139 people, all of who were being monitored, reports said. Three had been in close contact, 26 had been in contact more than seven days ago, and 110 were medical staff.
The businessman was a frequent traveler between Taiwan and China’s Jiangsu Province, reports said. He stayed in Suzhou from March 28 to April 9 before returning to Taiwan via Shanghai, according to the center.
The case was not only the first in Taiwan, but also the first to be officially confirmed outside of China. At least 22 people have died of H7N9 in the communist country, and more than 100 people have been infected.
As far as officials were aware, he had not been in contract with poultry or poultry farms and had not consumed egg products or uncooked poultry foods. The patient began feeling ill on April 12, showing flu symptoms such as fever, sweating and fatigue but no breathing problems. Because of persistent high fever, he turned to a local medical center for a consultation on April 16. The doctor there referred him to a hospital, where he was put in a single room and treated with relevant bird flu medicine.
Because his situation continued to deteriorate, he was transferred to a hospital in Northern Taiwan on April 20, reports said. Tests confirmed the presence of the H7N9 virus on Wednesday, according to the Central Epidemic Command Center. The patient was reportedly also a Hepatitis B carrier and suffered from heart problems, reports said.
Department of Health Minister Chiu Wen-ta said recently received samples of the virus were still in the research and development stage, and no vaccine was ready. The eventual local production of H7N9 vaccine has been caught in controversies about whether samples from China or from the United States should be used as its basis, and which companies would be allowed to manufacture the vaccine.
Taiwan’s proximity to China and its close tourism and business contacts were believed to make the emergence of the virus on the island hard to avoid. Over the past month, a total of 128 suspected cases were investigated but ruled negative until Wednesday’s test results came in.
The health authorities informed President Ma Ying-jeou of the news, officials said.