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Deadly H7N9 Bird Flu Spreads to Taiwan Via Traveler

Update Date: Apr 24, 2013 08:43 AM EDT
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Taiwanese health authorities on Wednesday reported the island's first case of the deadly H7N9 bird flu infection, making it the first confirmed case of the deadly new strain of bird flu outside of mainland China.

In a statement, Taiwan's Centers for Disease Control said that a 53-year-old Taiwanese businessman contracted the H7N9 strain of bird flu while traveling in China. 

According to Reuters, the man had fallen ill after returning from a business trip to Suzhou in China on April 9,

Health Department Minister Wen-Ta Chiu told a news conference told reporters that the man was diagnosed with the H7N9 virus on April 24, and is now in serious condition.  The man has been quarantined and is currently receiving treatment at an unspecified intensive care unit, according to the Wall Street Journal.

The patient said he didn't come into contact with birds and poultry during his stay in China, the CDC added.

"To our best knowledge, the man has come in contact with 139 people and so far none has exhibited any symptoms of the virus," CDC Director-General Chang Feng-yee said, according to the Wall Street Journal.

Taiwanese health officials said that the island will be taking appropriate measures, like opening a special out-patient clinic for patients infected with the new H7N9 strain of bird flu, according to Reuters.

The latest and first discovery of the virus outside mainland China may lead to increased scrutiny on travelers into and out of China, where the new H7N9 bird flu strain was discovered March 31, according to Bloomberg Businessweek.

The latest H7N9 outbreak has so far infected 108 and killed 22 people, according to the latest information available on the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) website.

Experts at the Geneva-based World Health Organization (WHO) said there is no evidence that H7N9 is easily transmitted between people, and because the virus doesn't appear to make birds sick, it is difficult to detect infected poultry flocks.

Flu researches said that they are particularly worried about the new strain of bird flu because it shows signs of being more readily able to pass on to humans from infected birds than another form of bird flu known as H5N1, which has been circulating for more than a decade.

Researcher , Ho Pak-leung, an associate professor in the Department of Microbiology at the University of Hong Kong, told the British Medical Journal (BMJ) that in the two months since H7N9 was first detected, the new strain has already infected nearly twice as many people in China as H5N1 did in a decade.

The H5N1 bird flu strain has killed 30 of the 45 people it infected in China between 2003 and 2013.

"This is definitely one of the most lethal influenza viruses that we've seen so far," said Keiji Fukuda, WHO's assistant director-general for health, security and the environment, according to Reuters.

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