The Central Epidemic Command Center said yesterday that the discovery of the first asymptomatic avian influenza H7N9 case in Beijing would not change Taiwan’s disease control measures at ports of entry, since there is still no evidence that the virus can easily spread among humans and the boy who tested positive for the virus had had direct contact with poultry.
The four-year-old boy, whose parents are fish and poultry vendors, was found to be infected with the H7N9 bird flu virus, but without any clinical symptoms, when Beijing health authorities undertook a risk-group surveillance in the neighborhood where the first infection in Beijing was found, the command center said.
“According to past experiences with avian influenzas, we can say that the viral load in infected people without symptoms is lower than in those with symptoms. As no evidence has so far shown that individuals with symptoms are capable of spreading the disease easily, I don’t think there is any reason to worry too much about undetected asymptomatic cases spreading the virus,” said Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Director-General Chang Feng-yee (張峰義), head of the command center.
“The current reporting criteria remain the same. Those who have a temperature over 38oC, respiratory symptoms and a recent history of travel to China’s H7N9-affected regions, now including Beijing and Henan Province, should be reported to the health authorities,” CDC official Yang Chin-hui (楊靖慧) said, adding that cases meeting only two of the three criteria do not need to be reported, but can be in the event of concern.
Five suspected cases, including two Chinese tourists in Hualien who later tested negative for H7N9, were reported in the 24-hour period ending at 8am yesterday.
In total, four people have been found not to be infected, with one case still outstanding, CDC official Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said.