The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) yesterday confirmed this year’s first case of H7N9 avian influenza in a human — a 69-year-old man who returned from China last month.
CDC Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞) said the man went to Yangjiang City in China’s Guangdong Province in September last year and worked there until the Lunar New Year holiday last month.
“The man said he developed a fever and respiratory symptoms on Jan. 23, before boarding a plane from Macau to Kaohsiung for the holiday,” Lo said. “He is Taiwanese and a resident of Kaohsiung.”
He said the man arrived in Taiwan on Jan. 25 and personnel from the CDC quarantine station at Kaohsiung International Airport detected his fever and suggested that he seek medical attention at a hospital.
A hospital diagnosed his condition as a suspected case of type A (H3N2) influenza, but after test results returned negative, the man was given antiviral medicine used to treat flu symptoms and was instructed to rest, Lo said.
However, the man’s fever persisted, and he started coughing up phlegm and having difficulty breathing on Sunday last week, and was hospitalized with a suspected case of pneumonia at an intensive care unit on Wednesday, Lo said, adding that the patient’s case was confirmed as an H7N9 avian influenza infection after the CDC examined a specimen sent by the hospital.
“H7N9 avian influenza is usually transmitted from birds to humans and its early symptoms are similar to those of flu, but the patient’s condition rapidly worsens after a week, developing into a serious case of pneumonia, with a mortality rate of about 30 to 40 percent,” he said.
The patient is still in the intensive care unit, Lo said, adding that an investigation found that two of his colleagues in China had upper respiratory symptoms, but the symptoms subsided after they received medical treatment.
The man’s two relatives showed no avian influenza symptoms, Lo said, adding that the CDC will follow up on the condition of 108 people who had come into contact with the man recently.
The CDC said that 261 cases of H7N9 avian influenza infection in humans have been reported in China since October last year.
It urged the public to exercise caution and avoid direct exposure to poultry when traveling to China, as that nation is at the peak of its flu season.