Taipei (AsiaNews) - A 53 year old man who had worked in the province of Jiangsu (江苏 省), China's mainland is the first patient to be infected with the H7N9 avian influenza virus in Taiwan. It was announced yesterday evening, Wednesday, April 24, at the center for the management of epidemics (中央 流行 疫情 指挥中心, Central Epidemic Command Center - CECC). The patient returned from Shanghai on April 9, is in very serious condition and is being treated in isolation in a negative pressure chamber (负压 隔离 的 加 护 病房). 139 people who came in contact with him in the last two weeks have already been visited by center, including three health workers who are showing symptoms of respiratory infection.
The manager Chang Feng-yee (张峰义) states that the center for the management of epidemics has already reported everything to the World Health Organization, as laid out by the IHR (International Health Regulations), and to the Chinese health authorities, as is fixed by the agreement on healthcare cooperation between on both sides of the strait.
The center has not made public however, the flight number on which the patient arrived because on his arrival in Taiwan and in the following days he had not yet shown any symptoms of infection.
The dossier prepared by the center reports that the patient had been in Suzhou (苏州) between 28 March and 9 April, but had no contact with poultry or birds, and had not eaten undercooked chicken or eggs. Only on April 12 he developed a fever with constant heavy sweating and fatigue. On April 16, he was hospitalized with a high fever. On 20 April, given his respiratory problems, he was placed in isolation in a negative pressure chamber in the intensive care unit of the hospital.
The National Center for Diseases (国家 卫生 指挥中心) yesterday morning completed the genome sequence of the virus and then confirmed to the center's management that it is H7N9.
The patient in question was a carrier of hepatitis B, had a history of hypertension, and used to travel between Taiwan and the city of Suzhou, Jiangsu Province, before contracting the virus.
During the press conference (see photo) the Health Minister Chiu Wen-ta (邱文 达) reported that there are 22 hospitals prepared to accommodate any patients with H7N9 as an immediate response to a possible contagion among the Taiwanese population.
The already strict surveillance at airports of the island, which reveals fever or symptoms among travelers, has been intensified and the recommendation for those who visit the continent is to observe strict hygiene measures, avoid entering traditional poultry markets, eat chicken and eggs only if well cooked.
For his part, the spokesman for the Ministry of Agriculture Wang Cheng-teng (王政 腾) said that if cases of the disease increase new rules about the killing of chickens will be enforced in traditional markets, well before 19 June, when is already set to come into force.
During the press conference, the leaders of the Centre for epidemics reported the World Health Organization statistics: from 31 March, when the first case was reported, there have been 108 confirmed cases of infection in China, including 22 deaths. The World Health Organization confirms that this new virus is one of the most lethal and more easily transmitted to humans. The previous H5N1 virus killed 30 of the 45 people infected in China between 2003 and 2013 (in the world in total cases were 622 with 371 deaths).
Keiji Fukuda, Assistant Director-General for Health Security of the World Health Organization stated that "this is without doubt one of the most lethal influenza viruses among those seen so far."