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article imageH7N9 bird flu confirmed in Taiwan, first case outside China

By R. C. Camphausen     Apr 27, 2013 in Health
Taipei - With 6,000 Chinese travelers arriving in Taiwan every day, the inevitable has happened. After a visit to Shanghai, a Taiwanese business man was found to be infected on his return. Taiwan has upped surveillance of flights from several Chinese provinces.
A 53-year-old Taiwan businessman was hospitalized after becoming ill three days after returning from a China-trip. When tested for H7N9 the result was negative, twice, yet when his condition worsened a new test was undertaken and came up positive.
On April 26, The Japan News reported that Taiwan's CDC official Chang Feng-yi confirmed the case, adding that Taiwan had meanwhile heightened flight surveillance measures for those Chinese provinces with known cases of H7N9.
Meanwhile, the World Health Organization (WHO) has completed a mission to China in cooperation with the Chinese CDC (Center for Disease Control). As a result, one isn't as yet ringing the pandemic alarm bell, yet a press release states the following:
The disease has now caused sporadic infections in over 100 people, with the majority developing serious disease including over 20 deaths. It is as yet unclear how many people might have carried the disease without showing any signs of illness. What also remains unclear is whether the virus could gain the ability to become transmissible between people.
The potential development of human-to-human spread cannot be ruled out, which is why this virus and outbreak is being taken extremely seriously and followed so closely.
Unlike the H5N1 strain that most affected younger people, the new strain seems to mainly target older age-groups; an effect virologists cannot yet explain. At present, only 20 percent of those known to be infected by H7N9 have died, while the fatality rate during the previous H5N1 pandemic in 2003 has been almost 60 percent.
That doesn't mean the new strain is less dangerous; the opposite is true. It has been discovered that both chicken and humans can be infected without clear symptoms, a peculiarity that makes detection more difficult and heightens the possibility of undetected spread.
There's no available vaccine as yet, and the new strain seems also resistant to the vaccines developed for the previous bird flu.
At the time of writing, April 27, the number of known infections is 105, with 23 dead.
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