New Bird Flu Travels Across Strait to Taiwan

April 24, 2013 Updated: July 18, 2015

A Taiwanese man is the first person to contract the H7N9 bird flu virus outside of mainland China, according to the island’s health department.

Communist authorities have so far reported 22 deaths of the 108 cases recorded in China, most recently spreading to Shandong Province.

The 53-year-old businessman visited Suzhou in the eastern province of Jiangsu, and returned to Taiwan via Shanghai, before being hospitalized. He is currently in isolation and in a critical condition.

Taiwan’s Centers for Disease Control said in an April 24 statement that the man had no exposure to birds or poultry. More than 100 people have been in contact with him since he came home, mostly hospital workers. Three hospital staff are currently being monitored as they have flu symptoms, despite wearing protective gear.

Flu expert Keiji Fukuda at the World Health Organization (WHO) told a Beijing news conference that the new strain spreads more easily than H5N1 bird flu. “This is definitely one of the most lethal influenza viruses we have seen so far,” he said, adding that experts are still grappling to understand the virus.

As yet, no human-to-human transmissions have been documented by the Communist Party or the WHO, but Fukuda said future proof “would not be surprising,” according to AAP.