In the nation’s first case of H7N9 avian influenza, diagnosed in a 69-year-old Taiwanese man who returned from China with flu symptoms late last month, the virus has developed mutation and a resistance to antiviral drugs, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) said.
An examination of a sample of the virus, collected from the man who is still in hospital, has similar hemagglutinin-neuraminidase to the newly mutated H7N9 virus found in China.
It is highly pathogenic to birds, but does not show an increased ability to transmit from bird to human, or human to human, the agency said on Monday.
“The mutated virus might be more lethal to birds, so disease prevention must be enhanced to prevent cases being imported from China,” CDC Deputy Director-General Philip Lo (羅一鈞) said yesterday.
“The virus sample was resistant to the antiviral medication oseltamivir [Tamiflu],” he said, adding that the man’s condition is serious and he was moved to a negative pressure isolation room early this month.
Lo said the CDC held a specialists’ meeting on Monday and decided to treat the man using oral favipiravir, an experimental antiviral drug for treating the Ebola virus.
The CDC said that its airport quarantine personnel detected flu symptoms in the man when he arrived on Jan. 25 and suggested he seek medical treatment, which he did on the same day and was referred to a medical center the following day.
There was no delay in reporting or diagnosing the case, the CDC said.
Meanwhile, 141 people who have had direct contact with the man were removed from a health monitoring watchlist on Monday last week, it added.
Lo said five H7N9 avian flu cases in humans have been reported in Taiwan, all of which were imported from China, including three Taiwanese working in China and two Chinese visitors. The first case in 2013 also showed resistance to antiviral treatments, but the patient later recovered and was discharged from hospital.
The CDC has urged people to cook poultry and eggs thoroughly, wash their hands with soap, wear surgical masks, seek medical attention and tell the doctor about their profession or contact with birds if flu symptoms occur.
People working in close proximity to birds should get a flu vaccination, eat a balanced diet and exercise regularly, the agency said.
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