The Central Epidemic Command Center yesterday denied reports that Taiwan had received help from Chinese health authorities to develop an H7N9 diagnostic test.
It said that the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has been closely monitoring avian influenza outbreaks since the SARS outbreak and has since developed the ability to conduct quick tests for three avian influenza A viruses — H5, H7 and H9.
Xinhua news agency reported on Sunday that the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention has distributed testing reagents for the H7N9 virus not only to the 409 bird flu monitoring sites across China, but also to the WHO, Mongolia, Taiwan and Hong Kong.
One Chinese-language newspaper in Taiwan ran the story yesterday.
The CDC said that it had not received any testing reagents and said that Taiwan is fully capable of developing its own H7N9 diagnostic test.
The Chinese government made public the full genetic sequence for samples of the H7N9 virus on April 2 by entering the sequence in an open database, the command center said. The CDC has confirmed the effectiveness of an H7N9 diagnostic test that was developed locally using real-time polymerase chain reaction (PCR) technology.
“To my knowledge, none of our health authorities has reported receiving an H7N9 diagnostic test from China,” CDC Director-General Chang Feng-yee (張峰義) said
Chang added that health authorities are using various means to acquire information on the H7N9 virus strain for future vaccine production and that successful procurement of the strain and a vaccine production plan is expected to be announced soon.
Department of Health Deputy Minister Lin Tzou-yien (林奏延) said there are three ways to obtain the H7N9 virus — from China, the WHO or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in the US.
He said that if the virus comes from China, it will take two months to purify and screen before vaccine production can begin. However, if it can be obtained from the WHO or the US, production could begin immediately.
“Taiwan is capable of completing production and starting clinical tests in six to eight weeks,” he said.
Additional reporting by CNA