Experts warn bird flu likely to have spread widely: Taiwan

By Joy Lee | Source: ANN
Health experts in Taipei said yesterday that the H7N9 bird flu epidemic might have spread widely, judging from the recent confirmed H7N9 cases from different areas in China.

H7N9, a sub-type that had not previously been transmitted to humans, has killed two people in Shanghai and left a third in a critical condition in the eastern province of Anhui, according to a Chinese government announcement on March 31.

Su Ih-jen of the National Health Research Institutes said that the current H7N9 bird flu epidemic is not normal, as the virus has appeared in two different areas at the same time.

“There is no connection between all the reported cases of H7N9 bird flu,” Su said, “which might suggest that the epidemic has spread to many different areas.

“Because the symptoms connected to the first stage of H7N9 are not obvious, it might be hard to prevent the epidemic from spreading to Taiwan,” said Su.

Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Deputy Director-General Chou Chih-hau said health inspection of travelers entering and leaving the country at airports and ports has been enhanced.

“Travelers who have touched birds in China, Hong Kong and Macau and suffer from fever after returning from those areas within 10 days will be sent to hospital for further examinations until it is confirmed that they do not have H7N9 bird flu,” said Chou.

Dr. Huang Li-min, chief physician at the National Taiwan University Hospital Department of Pediatric Infectious Diseases, said that judging from the known H7N9 cases, the epidemic has spread to more than one area.

According to the AFP, the World Health Organization (WHO) said in an email statement that there was no evidence of human-to-human transmission in the three reported cases, and that the WHO will continue to monitor the situation.

Publicly-funded Tamiflu to be available until April

Chang Feng-yih, director-general of the CDC, said yesterday that in response to the H7N9 bird flu epidemic, the CDC decided to extend the end date for publicly funded Tamiflu shots to the end of April.

“Even though people do not need to worry too much about the H7N9 bird flu for now,” Chang said, “everyone still has to be careful when being in touch with all kinds of animals, especially birds.”

According to Chang, current stocks of Tamiflu is enough for about 15 per cent of the population in Taiwan, so people do not need to worry about running out of Tamiflu stock.