Thu, May 21, 2009 - Page 1 News List

Taiwan reports first case of A(H1N1) flu

ALERT RAISED Health officials are trying to contact passengers who sat near an Australian doctor on Cathay Pacific flight 468 from Hong Kong on Monday

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER, WITH CNA

A family who were on the same Cathay Pacific Airways flight from Hong Kong on Monday as an Australian doctor with A(H1N1) influenza are escorted from their home in Yonghe, Taipei County, yesterday by medical staff after they contacted health authorities because they had developed fevers and other flu-like symptoms. The family has been hospitalized at the Sanchong City branch of Taipei County Hospital.

PHOTO: LIU HSIN-DE, TAIPEI TIMES

The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) issued a phase 2 alert yesterday after the first case of swine flu was confirmed in Taiwan. The center raised the pandemic alert level after a 52-year-old Australian doctor, who had flu symptoms when he arrived at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport on Monday, was confirmed as having A(H1N1) influenza.

The center urged the public not to panic, saying that the A(H1N1) virus has a low fatality rate and that Taiwan’s medical and epidemic prevention capabilities can keep the disease under control.

The 52-year-old doctor, who is based in Taitung but has reportedly worked aboard cruise liners for the past two months, had a fever of 38.3°C at a quarantine station upon arrival at the airport, CDC spokesman Shih Wen-yi (施文儀) said.

He was taken by ambulance to Taoyuan General Hospital and was put under quarantine, Shih said.

A CDC lab confirmed around 4am yesterday that he had the A(H1N1) virus. He is in good condition in a negative pressure isolation room at the hospital, officials said.

The CDC said the Australian left New York on Sunday aboard Cathay Pacific Airways flight CX831 to Hong Kong and then arrived in Taiwan on Cathay Pacific flight 468.

His seat on the flight from New York was “41H,” while his seat on the flight to Taipei was “62K,” Shih said.

The CDC is looking for 60 passengers who sat three rows in front and behind the man on the Taipei flight so they can be quarantined and tested. As of press time, 57 had been contacted.

Department of Health Minister Yeh Ching-chuan (葉金川) told the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) caucus in a phone call yesterday that he would return home from the World Health Assembly (WHA) in Geneva and could arrive this morning at the earliest.

On Tuesday Yeh told the WHA that Taiwan’s participation in the assembly not only benefited its people but was in the best interests of the international community.

“We are willing to share with you our new advances and experiences. I have full confidence that united, we can meet the challenges of this pandemic flu,” Yeh said in his four-minute speech, delivered in English.

Noting that Taiwan had joined the International Health Regulations (IHR) network in January, Yeh said: “This is a significant step forward for Chinese Taipei’s management and control of communicable diseases. And for the world, there will be one less breach in the WHO’s line of defense against the pandemic flu.”

In related news, Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Twu Shiing-jer (?? angered KMT lawmakers yesterday by describing the nation’s first confirmed H1N1 case as “the biggest present to [President] Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) for his first anniversary in office.”

KMT caucus secretary-general Yang Chiung-ying (楊瓊瓔) criticized Twu for “using the health of the Taiwanese people as a tool for political wrangling.”

Twu later said that what he meant was Yeh should boost his epidemic prevention work as an anniversary gift to Ma.

WORLD NEWS

The number of confirmed swine flu cases worldwide passed the 10,000 mark, WHO spokeswoman Fadela Chaib said yesterday in Geneva, as the total reached 10,243 including 80 deaths.

“There is an increase of 413 cases in the past 24 hours, with most in the United States with 346 new cases ... and in Japan there are 51 new cases,” she said.

The WHO data refers to laboratory confirmed cases reported by countries early yesterday and includes cases from previous days or weeks that have only just been confirmed by testing.

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