China has informed Taiwan’s Department of Health that it is in the process of sending a strain of the H7N9 bird flu virus to Taiwan, a senior Taiwanese health official said yesterday.
“We have received information from Chinese health authorities that they began the virus delivery procedures this afternoon,” Centers for Disease Control (CDC) Deputy Director-General Chou Jih-haw (周志浩) said. “We will make an announcement when the shipment arrives.”
“The wild strain will be used to check whether test reagents now in use in Taiwan are effective and whether Tamiflu is effective against H7N9 bird flu,” he added.
The CDC would reproduce the virus and study its biological features, he said.
As to whether the strain from China would be cultured for production of an H7N9 vaccine, Chou said that would be considered at a later point.
He added the CDC has been in close contact with the US, which has promised to make H7N9 cultures available to Taiwan for vaccine production once the US succeeds in developing the cultures.
“There has been no progress so far in this regard,” he added.
According to China’s latest statistics, the number of confirmed H7N9 cases in the country had risen to 83, with 17 deaths, as of Thursday morning.
Citing a Chinese health official, the WHO said on Wednesday that about 40 percent of people who have tested positive for the H7N9 virus in China appear to have had no contact with poultry.
“This is one of the puzzles still [to] be solved and therefore argues for a wide investigation net,” WHO spokesman Gregory Hartl was quoted as saying in a Reuters report.
Feng Zijian (馮子健), director of the health emergency center at the Chinese Center for Disease Control and Prevention, said on Wednesday that China is investigating the possibility of human-to-human transmission of the H7N9 virus and is examining “family clusters” of people infected with the virus.
One of the families that China is studying is made up of two brothers and their father, who died of the virus, Feng said.
However, he added that the family cluster case still does not change Chinese health authorities’ understanding of the characteristics of the disease in general — that it is transmitted from birds to people and there is no evidence of human-to-human transmission.