Three poultry farm workers have tested positive for H5N2 antibodies, but are all healthy and have not developed flu-like symptoms, the Council of Agriculture said yesterday.
The council reminded the public that the H5N2 avian influenza does not infect humans and that last month’s outbreak appeared to be winding down.
After the outbreak, the Bureau of Animal and Plant Health Inspection and Quarantine (BAPHIQ) began collecting blood samples from 141 workers at poultry farms where the H5N2 virus was found.
The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) on Sunday said three men had tested positive for H5N2 antibodies, the first time the agency had found the antibodies in humans.
The three are workers at a poultry farm in Changhua County’s Fangyuan Township (芳苑), which first reported an H5N2 outbreak on Dec. 27 last year, sparking fears that the virus could be transmitted among humans.
However, CDC Deputy Director-General Chou Jih-haw (周志浩) said there was no risk of human-to-human transmission.
The government confirmed the first outbreak of H5N2 avian influenza on March 3 after chicken farms in Changhua and Nantou counties, as well Greater Tainan, reported avian flu outbreaks. More than 75,000 chickens have been culled as a result of the outbreaks.
The Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislative caucus held a press conference yesterday morning to ease public concerns, saying the positive test results did not constitute an H5N2 outbreak and that it was safe to eat chicken and eggs.
BAPHIQ Deputy Director-General Huang Kwo-ching (黃國青), who attended the press conference, said the workers that had tested positive were all healthy and did not exhibit any symptoms.
“In previous statements, the WHO has reassured us of the low likelihood of H5N2 avian influenza infecting humans and the virus has only been found in poultry. The public should feel safe eating chicken and eggs as long as they are fully cooked,” Huang said.
He said the bureau had inspected 14,424 chicken farms nationwide and put 476 under active monitoring. There have been no further confirmed cases of H5N2 virus infection, which suggested the outbreak has abated, he said.
Nevertheless, Department of Health (DOH) Minister Chiu Wen-ta (邱文達) said the three infected poultry workers would remain on a department surveillance list for close monitoring.
DOH Deputy Minister Lin Tzou-yien (林奏延) said the trio’s positive results could be linked to the vaccines against the H5N1 bird flu virus they received in the past, or, for two of them, the seasonal flu shots they received.
However, authorities have not ruled out that they might have been infected with the non-symptomatic H5N2 virus.