Fifty-five of the 163 people known to have come in close contact with a Chinese tourist infected with the H7N9 strain of avian flu have begun taking preventive medication, a Centers for Disease Control (CDC) official said yesterday.
Among them were three medical-care providers who began to show respiratory symptoms and were asked to stay at home for self health management, CDC Deputy Director-General Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said.
In addition, Chuang said, sputum samples were collected from them for testing.
“All of them tested negative,” Chuang said after the examination results became available yesterday at about noon.
The infected Chinese tourist, 86, arrived in Taipei on Dec. 17 last year and was hospitalized on Tuesday last week for pneumonia treatment.
He had visited major tourist destinations in seven cities and counties around the nation before his hospitalization.
The CDC confirmed on Tuesday that the man, from Jiangsu Province, was infected with the deadly H7N9 virus, marking the nation’s second imported H7N9 infection.
Chuang said the man is in a “serious, yet stable condition.”
The results of an epidemiological survey as of yesterday morning showed that 663 people had been in contact with the man, Chuang said. Of them, 163 people had what doctors described as close contact with him and had sputum samples taken for testing.
Fifty-five people were deemed at particularly high risk of infection, including the man’s two daughters, a tour guide, a bus driver, hotel staff and the three medical-care providers, all of whom began a 10-day course of Tamiflu on Tuesday as a preventive measure, Chuang said.
As the virus spreads mainly through bird-to-human transmission, the possibility of those who had close contact with the man falling victim to infection should be low, Chuang said, adding that neither of the man’s two daughters had so far shown any symptoms.
Nevertheless, he cautioned China-bound travelers to stay away from live poultry markets during their trips.
The H7N9 strain was confirmed to have made the jump from birds to humans for the first time in March last year, when China’s state media said that two people in Shanghai had died after being infected with the virus the previous month.
Other deaths soon followed, prompting officials to shut down meat markets and cull poultry in several Chinese cities amid fears of a potential epidemic.
However, the WHO said earlier that there had been no evidence of human-to-human transmission of the virus.
The number of human H7N9 infections in China has dropped significantly in recent months. As of early November last year, there had been 139 confirmed human cases of H7N9, and 45 deaths reported since April, according to the WHO.
Taiwan’s first imported H7N9 case was reported in April last year, involving a Taiwanese businessman who fell ill after returning from a trip to Jiangsu Province.
He made a full recovery after a month of intensive treatment.