More suspected cases of H7N9 avian flu reported

RESULTS::Tests found two of the 10 new suspected cases were actually H1N1 bird flu infections, while tests still have to be conducted on seven additional samples

By Alison Hsiao  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Apr 10, 2013 - Page 3

Test results have cleared three suspected cases of H7N9 avian influenza infection, as 10 new suspected cases were reported, the Central Epidemic Command Center said yesterday.

The announcement came after the center held a third meeting about H7N9, at which a development and production plan for a H7N9 vaccine was discussed.

Of the 10 suspected cases of H7N9 reported this week, nine were reported by hospitals and one was detected at an airport, the command center said.

“Three of the 10 were ruled not to be H7N9 infections, with two of them confirmed to be H1N1 virus infections. The rest are pending results,” Centers for Disease Control official Chuang Jen-hsiang (莊人祥) said.

Two experts sent to China on Saturday last week have confirmed that there is no sign of sustained human-to-human transmission of the H7N9 bird flu so far, Chuang said.

Deputy Department of Health Minister Lin Tzou-yien (林奏延) said production of an H7N9 vaccine could be undertaken in one of two ways: either by acquiring the wild-type H7N9 virus strain from China for vaccine development or by receiving a developed vaccine strain from the WHO or the US’ Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

“With an acquired virus strain [from China] we would be able to make a vaccine seed strain using reverse genetics, which takes about four to five weeks. The safety test takes another four to six weeks before a vaccine production strain can be provided to vaccine manufacturers. Further clinical studies would be required before market authorization could be obtained,” Lin said.

“If we can receive a vaccine production strain from the WHO or the US, things will be easier, because we can directly provide the strain to the manufacturers,” Lin said.

When asked about the possibility of a H7N9 vaccine being produced through cross-strait cooperation, as President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) has said he would like to see, Lin said speed was the overriding factor.

“It would be nice to cooperate on other kinds of vaccines, but with H7N9, it seems that it would be faster to have our local companies undertake the production,” Lin said.